Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Insecure Writer and Critiques



Today is February's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.




Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

Because of the comments I receive from my critique partners.

Don't get me wrong. I expect my CPs to find problems in the chapters I send them. To be honest, I expect them to find quite a lot. Places where I've left the reader scratching their heads because I didn't add enough interior thoughts. Sections where my choice of wording led them astray. Paragraphs with too much confusing dialogue. It’s all part of the learning process and I happily accept that.

Every once in a while, though, I'll receive a comment I just don't understand. It's like they're reading a totally different chapter than the one I sent. And that's when I become discouraged. I'll wonder why I can't see what they see. I'll wonder why they think the MC is thinking or doing things that aren't even close to what I intended. And I'll wonder if I have any clue as to what I'm doing, and whether I'll ever have what it takes to properly express the ideas bouncing around inside my head.

But then I'll spend some time thinking about the chapter and I'll eventually come up with a new way to write it. It doesn't mean my CPs will like it any better than the first version, but at least I'm learning. I hope.

ChemistKen


Question: What comments do your critique partners make that bother you the most?



34 comments:

  1. I know the feeling!
    I'm most bothered when I get a critique from someone who obviously skimmed the text. Like they ask a question that was answered in previous paragraphs, and it makes it clear they have not read carefully.
    Mostly this bothers me because I'm not sure, then, what to do with the rest of their feedback. Is any of it valuable? Do I just assume that my work is boring and needs a better hook? Do I throw away the whole crit, or go through every comment in the hopes that one will be relevant?

    I don't know. What I do know is when you find a great crit partner, hold on tight! Those people are gold :)
    Happy IWSG day!

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    1. What's even worse is when you're pretty sure the person didn't skim over the previous paragraph. That's when you begin to question your writing skills. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. It's challenging when our critique partners are confused and we aren't sure how to fix it. Often though, what's clear in our head doesn't make it to the page.
    Good luck with the rewrite.

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    1. And it always sounds so good in my head. What happens when it hits the paper?

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  3. I think getting critiques is one of the hardest thing about the writing process. But it's good that you are learning from it and I'm sure your chapters will be great. Good luck!

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    1. I usually look forward to them, because I know they'll make my story better. But sometimes, I just don't know how to fix what they point out.

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  4. If I can't figure out feedback, I usually take that feedback to either another critique partner or to my sis-in-law to see if they can either see where the person is coming from, or if perhaps it's not as messed up I feared. I had one critique partner who made a lot of comments about needing more information in a chapter. I took it to my sis-in-law who said, "she's cracked. It's fine." I trust my sis-in-law. She reads the genre I write, and is extremely judgmental when it comes to books.

    So maybe it's not you. But trying to be accommodating is a good thing.

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    1. I always listen to my CPs, but sometimes it's all about figuring out what's really bothering them. Sometimes the CP doesn't know exactly what it was that bothered them. Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. Sometimes the problem lies with the CP and not the writing.
    Go with the majority.

    IWSG #143 until Alex culls the list again.

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    1. Sometimes, but I bet it's usually my writing.

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  6. I had a critique partner who loved to use the word "cliche" regardless of how non-cliche an element of my writing was. Drove me bonkers! Needless to say, her advice became a cliche and I dropped her from my CP list.

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    1. I have a CP who tends to try and figure out where the story is going and bases their comments on how well I'm following their preconceptions. I always have to take their suggestions with a grain of salt.

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  7. Sometimes CPs are very perceptive, give good advice, and come up with great suggestions. Sometimes they don't. The trick is to decide which advice to take and which to ignore. Don't let it get to you! :)

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    1. Yep. I hope that's something I get better at with time.

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  8. If you trust that the CPs opinion has some value then try to look at the work from their perspective. As the author, you know what you mean and what you want, but it can be hard to get all that information out of our heads and onto the page. Sometime you have to put the work away for awhile and when you come back, what's missing from the pages (but was in your mind) becomes clear.

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  9. Don't let their comments get you down! The great thing though is that if they all say the same thing, you can see maybe where your readers would be confused. Maybe it's as simple as tweaking a paragraph. I know it can be frustrating when the comments are confusing, but maybe you could ask for clarity? Or maybe rewrite that scene and send it back and see what they think?

    Tamara hit it right on as well. Maybe putting it away for a while would help you see where the problems lie. Good luck! And keep writing! :)

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  10. In the old days, my CPs sometimes made me feel insane. Part of it is learning to communicate with each other. We've been meeting for years now so have figured out how to better talk to each other. With that said, people will always read things you don't intend into everything. Everyone's brain works differently and they bring different experiences to what you wrote is why. If it's one stray comment, you're free to ignore. If more than one person commented the same, try and see if you can't break it down into something that makes sense to you. Sometimes not.

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  11. We all have those moments where we scratch our heads and think, "Isn't that what I was saying?" I appreciate CP responses, but I've come to the point where I know which ones to heed and which ones to put off until I hear it from at least one other person. It's always hard if you're only hearing it from one source.

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  12. I think we all hit those confusing things from time to time. I generally assume that while I don't know where THEY are coming from, they certainly also didn't see where I was coming from, so it needs some tweaking to make myself clear.

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  13. I remembering having this reaction another #IWSG where I dropped in on you--a spot on feeling, that we re in sync.

    Again, me too. My Critique Group has left my writing optimism in tatters. Some were excellent comments, easily fixed, others were because they forgot parts of the novel (15 pages every six weeks, one forgets). And then there are the snarky ones who maybe have the best advice but couch it in superiority.

    Those are the ones that put me in a bad mood. I might worry s/he would read this, but s/he'd never do that--reach out.

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    1. I wouldn't put up with a CP that acted superior, even if they gave good advice. It wouldn't be worth the heartburn.

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  14. I've had a CP who clearly only scanned the prose. He'd ask me a question that was answered three lines previously. That kinda bothered me.

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  15. What really sends me into orbit or out of it is when I get two completely conflicting comments. What? Now I have to decide? Sheesh.

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    1. It probably means there's an even better third option.

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  16. I actually prefer cp's who are blunt. I spring ahead by leaps and bounds with honest cp's however sometimes the comments do sting. When I get questions that make me scratch my head I think maybe the reader would be doing the same so I better sit up and listen. Good luck with yours!!

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  17. If you don't get what your CPs are saying - or if you feel like they're missing something - I'd recommend talking it out with them. Ask for further explanation, and talk over what you'd intended. I've done that and sometimes found that the critique they gave ("the character isn't likable here") actually means something else ("this section is overwritten.")

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  18. That's what CPs are for. We know what we think and what we think we've made clear. Its up to them to show us a different angle. If they are good, so is our writing in the end. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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  19. I know what you mean because I've had the same feeling. Like the CP is from a different country. Or planet. Humor is the hardest thing to get across in any language. For that, I keep Riordan nearby and remind myself that teen humor is subversive. Adults are clowns.

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  20. I had it when someone totally rewrite a segment and in doing so changes my voice or the point of the scene. I have been really lucky and only had that happen once.
    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

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  21. The biggest problem I have with my CPs in that they are mainly American and sometimes my Britishisms confuse them. It's even worse when I make up words though :-)

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  22. Sometimes, a CP will have a completely different version of the story in mind, will basically tell you how SHE/HE would have written it. This kind of feedback is not particularly helpful.

    Also, watch out for advice from someone who doesn't read/write your genre or for your target audience. I have repeatedly received YA-type advice on a MG manuscript from one particular beta reader.

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  23. CP's aren't perfect and can make mistakes with their critiques. You should ask them to clarify if they're making you scratch your head. It's probably just a breakdown of communication. At least you try to figure out a better way, even if you're baffled.

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  24. It's usually the comments where a CP is confused that are the most difficult to take, especially when you think it's pretty clear and maybe even other CPs think it is clear. That's why it's good to run a manuscript through at least three people. Hopefully you can get a consensus of what is going on with the story.

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  25. good question. And the answer is particularly vexing. When I ask my crit partners about comments from other people, specifically agents and editors, and they are as baffled as me, that s what drives me nuts.

    To be truthful, the first voice that raises its evil head is that my crit partners might not be truthful with me. Second is the thought that the agents are crazy and don't know anything. But then the third, darker thought creeps in that not only do I not have a real clue, but my crit partners might not either. So there we are the blind leading the stupid. *sigh* someday I'll either figure out what this magic key is that I'm missing, or I'll realize there was never a key at all.

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