Thursday, June 21, 2012


 How about a word on crit work?

I remember when I first came into the blogosphere, I wondered about the "Crit Group" situation. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to share anything I'd written. Rejection sucks, even if it isn't from an agent or publisher. But when my friends asked me to be a part of their group, I knew I needed to do it & I was excited for the opportunity.

When I shared my first piece of writing, it made me physically ill! Yes, I was that nervous. Everyone talks about "getting thick skin" and I wasn't sure I wanted it. Well, I'm glad I got mine. You need it as a writer. You need to be able to take advice on your writing. (That doesn't mean that you need to do everything that everyone says) but advice and opinions are helpful to have.

So here are a few tips that I have learned from my favorite crit buddies:
  • Be brave enough to be honest! You can't hope someone else will mention something. If you notice it. Say it.
  • Constructive Criticism! Yes, it is possible to mention the flaws in someones story without being the worlds biggest A-hole! Your job is to help, NOT to kill their dream.
  • Find their Strengths! Everyone has different strengths, so even if you're reading a really rough, first draft, be sure to mention what you like! Tell them what they're doing right! It helps so much to hear the positive, especially when you're taking in the negative as well!
  • Suggestions! Sometimes my CP's will offer suggestions on a rough part. NO, we can't do this on every part that needs work, but it's okay to throw in your idea of a helpful sentence. Not only does this help them understand what you're saying, but also helps them to learn and get their writing mind on the right track!
There is always more, but these are a few of the biggest things that I've noticed from CP's. 

** Also, if you haven't joined a crit group yet, I highly recommend you do. They are a strength to each writer! Each person in the group is a link in a chain. They all have different strengths. When you put them all together, they can help you see what you can do to make your MS clean, tight and polished!

What is your strength in writing? Are you great at characters, plot, editing, dialogue, etc? And if you want... throw a shout out to someone, and what strength they have that you admire! Share the love!

And be sure to hop over to FALLING FOR FICTION! They are talking about this same thing today and I got to share my input! Thanks guys! I love you all!


Joanna said...

Great thoughts, Leigh.

I think we also need to be prepared to try a different group if we find the one we have joined is not serving its purpose for us!

I have recently heard from more than one person:
"Great voice! Great images! Tight writing, but where's the story!" ouch, I need to work more on my picture book plots!!

My crit partner, Pat Tilton, comes up with some adorable characters. I always care about them!

Iain said...

Far too often we concentrate on our weaknesses, and neglect our strengths. Thanks for the reminder that it's not completely an uphill struggle.
I've been told that I do great end of chapter hooks, and that my dialogue is good. Personally, I think that my plotting is my greater strength.
As for someone to admire? It has to be Carrie Butler. If you ever get a chance for her to do a Crit, then grab it with both hands. She's brilliant! :oD

S.P. Bowers said...

Great tips. Getting and giving critiques are so important. It's impossible to write without.

Nick Wilford said...

Really helpful post, Leigh. I'm about to take the plunge into this for the very first time and nervous even about critiquing others' work, so your advice is great! Hopefully during the process, I will be able to identify my strengths, as I really can't judge my own stuff. I'm bookmarking this. :)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I feel really fortunate that I have great crit partners, and the fact that we are all educators seems to mean that we live and breathe these principles every day. It is so essential to remember that, if suggestions aren't made, work doesn't improve, but kindness is essential always.

Emily R. King said...

I hear ya, Leigh! It's nice to have a CP who reads your work and doesn't think it's total crap. :) I'm lucky to have two lovely ladies who gently tell me, "This sucks. Fix it." They're so good to me!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I read that a good way to crit is to use the sandwich method - something positive, something negative, followed by something positive.

Oh, and a shout out to everyone who can write humor, who can write "funny." Now, that's a skill! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess my strength is characters.
And I'll do a shout out for my critique partner, author Rusty Webb. He is awesome with humor and flow of story.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I also try to just give my reflections as I'm reading. Sometimes that's just my suspicions about a character or if a comment someone makes in the story is significant.

We do need to be careful about suggestions however. It's not our job to tell the author how to fix the problem and can be kind of presumptuous to do so. And yet, I love my online critique group because we can bounce ideas back and for as we work through problem areas.

Tobi Summers said...

I'd like to add something to the advice (that I didn't think about while I was emailing Jenny back last night): Don't try to change someone's writing style. You can't make someone write a certain way--whether it's their choice of sentence structure, plot, or anything else. You have to accept who they are as a writer and work within their style.

As for my strengths as a CP, it's probably grammar and syntax. And I'll do a shout out to K.S. Lewis, who's my CP and is 18 billion kinds of awesome at it. She can sit there and punch holes in my story all day long, but she does it with such affection and honest desire for me to be better that it never comes across as malicious.

Cassie Mae said...

You are so right on all of this! All my cps are so good at doing this. (Though I am getting a sort of complex that you are posting on how to deliver bad news when you have my ms, lol)

Hmm... my strengths as a cp... I dunno. Making dirty jokes every time I read the word throb?

J. A. Bennett said...

I couldn't agree more, as writers it's too easy to focus on the bad. Sometimes we need a hint of the good, but we still need to know the bad in the end :)

Kim said...

Just read your comments on FFF, too. Such great advice.
I am at the point where I am wanting to have my writing critiqued, and am wondering HOW everyone goes about finding CPs. Any suggestions?

Rachel said...

Love this post, Leigh. Critique partners are the bomb dot com. I love mine!!! <3

Krista McLaughlin said...

That is some great advice! Also, make sure that you are critiquing the writing and not the writeR. People don't like to be critiqued if it feels like a personal attack. Focus on the writing. :)

Ruth Josse said...

I have learned a lot from my CPs on how to crit. Namely, you! Everyone, Leigh is an awesome critiquer!!! That's my shout out. I agree with all your suggestions and I hope I'm getting better at them. Btw, when do we get to read your stuff??

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Unfortunately, my first crit group in college was dominated by this guy named J.C. who was a complete overeducated ass. He tore everyone's manuscripts (including mine) to absolute shreds, pointing out the smallest minutiae to make fun of. He didn't like a single piece of writing except his own, and I really soured to the whole "crit group" thing.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

I don't have a Crit group! *sobs* I have one lady where we are sharing each other's work, but could really do with some more people. How do I find them? Would love a middle grade writer who is polishing their novel, but I guess that's a BIG ask.

Should I approach people? Yikes!

Shallee said...

These things are so important in critiquing. I try to remember to point out strengths as well as weaknesses when I critique, because I've found that when people do that for me, that can be just as helpful!

Nicole said...

Great thoughts! I'm a character person, but I also do PR writing/editing for my day job so I have a good editing eye, too.

I am so, so grateful for the awesome local crit group I all the folks I've met in the writing blogosphere.

Jenny Morris said...

Great minds think a like. ;0) Love your advice.

My CP's are so good at pushing me to be a better writer. They point out the good and add funny stories but they also aren't afraid to say SHOW DON'T TELL!! Haha, sorry just finished a few chapters where I got a lot of that. But they add smiley faces after it.

Carrie Butler said...

My strength is probably voice.

...Which you can find in my new adult paranormal romance, STRENGTH, coming 03/07/13! ;) Sorry, sorry. I had to. It was right there! LOL

Great post! :)

Lara Schiffbauer said...

I have always benefited from both getting and giving feedback. I think it's important to be able to listen to other opinions while keeping an open mind. They may have a better way of doing something, or not, but it's good to learn how to be detached from your work so you can evaluate it all to make your work the best it can be!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I love feedback - good or bad - because it helps me to be a better writer.

elizabeth seckman said...

You said it well lady!

Elana Johnson said...

These are all great things. I think the one thing to add is to be brave enough to say if the group isn't working for you. You don't want to stay with your group simply because it's all you've got. You know?

TheClevies said...

Kind of got the creeps when I read this. Yesterday I posted how fear-filled I can sometimes get and here you encourage me and help me towards strengthening my 'outer skin.'

Thanks bunches!

Tara Tyler said...

wonderful advice! i've had great success from the crits i've gotten and hope i've returned the favor!

Samantha said...

Great advice! I'd say my strength is character, but that's just my opinion :D

Leslie Pugh said...

Great advice! The first time I shared my work was at bootcamp at Storymakers this year and I was about sick myself! But it turned out to be so helpful to me to know what to work on.

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