Well… I did. Once!
Even today I’m not sure if it was a positive experience or not. First of all, the five of us belonged to the same RWA chapter and so we were able to meet in person. That certainly adds a different level to the interactions. Let’s face it, what you might write to a person you’ve never met just isn’t as easy to say in front of them especially when others are present.
Also, keep in mind that everyone has a different response when it comes to their work. We’re all possessive to a certain extent. Some of us more so! Truthfully, some get downright huffy if a point is made they don’t agree with. So it’s the old tippy-toeing to try and mention a mistake or weakness while the idea of giving your honest opinion goes out the window.
As much as I wanted to do my best for the other writers, it’s not easy telling someone you like, that the way they wrote a certain passage could be done a lot better. (In your opinion!) Or that they’ve used way too many words on something that didn’t warrant them. (In your opinion!) How about when it’s the pacing that’s bad, POV hopping, uninteresting characters, not enough emotion, or maybe the whole dang chapter should just be obliterated.
Then what do you do?
Decide that you know best? Try and sincerely help by swallowing your fear and let concern for their work take over. Maybe point out their weaknesses?
Probably lose a friend?
Our group didn’t last too long. The lunches were lovely. The sharing of information very helpful. Brainstorming new plots was a high point of the time we spent together. But enjoying the critique part – for me – not so much!
The lesson I came away with – my editors could say the same things to me in a much more down-to-earth manner and I would totally accept that they knew better than I did. So… from now on it’s between me and them.
This was just my experience. I happen to know of an author who takes days to get over feeling horrible after being with her critique partners. She began questioning her talents, wondering if she should rewrite her work because of their amateur sentiments. Now, is that right? Does that help any author particularly one who’s unpublished?
I think not…
On the other hand, there are many of my colleagues who love their partners, depend on their critiques to make their work shine and happily give up their time to read and correct each other's writing. If you are one of these lucky ones, please tell us how you've managed it.
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