Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Critiquing or Editing? That is the Question.

How do you feel when you've finally come to the end of your story? Like little Eliza here, it's really hard to let go.

I have to admit I don't belong to a critique group, but I think I'd be unlikely to hand it over to so many varied ideas and suggestions. Some authors do find this a great way to go as it seems to fire them up in a fresh way. You know "steel against steel" sharpens the mind.

Francine Rivers admitted she wouldn't join a critique group as it would be too much like a committee...too many ideas. And she also commented that the great authors of the past didn't work that way. They wrote alone and unaided. However, getting your work edited by a professional is an entirely different matter. Apart from grammatical errors, they pick up on the flaws in writing style, pacing and scene structure that novices aren't aware of. Of course they can charge big time as it's their time and skill involved.

I just love the way Debbie Ridpath captures what most of us authors struggle through! It's good to have a special reader whom you trust willing to read through your manuscript with helpful comments and willing to talk over any weaknesses. It really does help to understand a reader's point of view. Something you think think you've explained so well might be as clear as mud to someone just as intelligent as you are! And it comes as a shock to discover there might be another perfectly acceptable way of writing it.

I'd love to know how all you other authors out there think about this. Go it alone or work with a critique group?


Besides contributing to several US anthologies, Rita Stella Galieh has authored two novels, Fire in the Rock and Signed Sealed Delivered, Book I of a trilogy. She blogs weekly about true stories of women & occasionally men at http://inspirationalromance.blogspot.com . While waiting for her 2nd and 3rd books to find a publisher she scripts and is co-speaker for a Christian radio program, Communication, broadcast throughout Australia and HCJB, Missionary Radio.

19 comments:

  1. Perhaps it depends on what you are writing. Your own biography may not need a critique group while your newest fiction novel might benefit from one.

    Also I think deadlines might impact whether-or-not you seek help from a trusted critique group.

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  2. I admit that giving a manuscript that you've laboured over and come to love, feels a bit like giving your child to someone else to mind for a while. However, I've always found editors and critiquers very helpful and sensitive. It's a great learning experience and it certainly improves the final product.

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    1. A great editor and critiquer can be marvellous helps. You have to sort this out yourself. If they're coming from a totally different viewpoint from yours, then you weigh whether you go with their advice. Trust is the thing.

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  3. I think a group of critiquers would be confusing. Even going through a manuscript after different proof-readers, I find they have conflicting ideas on phrases, spelling and grammar. I do work with one critiquer though, and find her extremely helpful with plot lines, consistency and authenticity. I wouldn't do without her! :)

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    1. She sounds wonderful. You're blessed to have her Amanda.

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  4. Loved your post Rita and the cartoons were spot on. Thanks for providing a big smile for my day.

    I have to admit I haven't joined a group - although am sure other writers will definitely sharpen my skill. It hasn't 'happened' and I sometimes wonder if I need to.

    Yes, handing our precious 'babies' is not easy is it. And to have our books dissected is not easy either. But a great way of making our writing better.
    Food for thought,
    Thanks Rita,
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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  5. Thanks Anusha. I forgot to add that www.grammarslammer.com is a big help if self editing. Although Word doc is great, grammar slammar explains the reason behind the correct sentence structure, punctuation etc.

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  6. Hi! A very interesting post here, Rita.

    I have 5 critiquers. 3 in a critique group and 2 others that I swap chapters with. I wouldn't be without them. I've only been writing a year and still have lots to learn. I haven't found them to be a committee or anything like that. My ideas/story plot gets left intact and they pick on the grammar problems as well as any setting details. I really need this part from them as I'm an Aussie writing about a US setting. One crit partner in particular is great with telling me to pick up the ball and throw it a bit further to increase tension. My work is miles better than it was originally because of their input. My work has problems with it that I simply cannot see because I am too close to it. We have different genres with help. Mine is the historical, and then the others have a fantasy story, a couple of contemporary romances, and a 13th Century fairytale.

    But I can understand the reasoning behind not wanting to have critique partners, not only from the worry over conflicting ideas but perhaps idea theft? Maybe. Trust is a big key obviously. As with any relationship.

    All I can say is from my perspective having critique partners has enriched my life, strengthened my manuscript and taught me self editing on a far faster level then learning it from a book/course would have. I have some partners and even better--some great trustworthy friends. :)

    All the best as you each write for His glory,
    Lucy

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    1. Lucy, that crit partner who advised you to take a scene further to add tension knows what it's all about! We need more tension in our stories to show what our protagonists are struggling with. Both inner and outside conflicts need resolution, even if it takes working through the whole book to get them to it, enabling them to reach their goal.

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  7. The comments here prove how different we all are. What's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander - metaphorically speaking, of course. Very good topic though, Rita. And I love those cartoons - so true. Thanks for this post!

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    1. Marg I laughed when I saw them. I'm still a bit that way. I revise, revise revise. Wanting my baby to be the best she can be!

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  8. Lucy hit it on the head with the mention of trust. We have to be able to trust the one critiquing. Sometimes it's a matter of who is around and where you are. I have been in a small group in the past and I'd be happy to have a critique partner to exchange with but at the moment it's not happening.

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    1. I think it takes courage to belong to a group and sort of expose your work to others, Dale. Like you all say, trusting them to make truly helpful comments is the thing. Even though I've never had the intriguing experience of belonging to such a group, I think it would be something like it is here...sharing your feelings, triumphs and failures etc. We're all authors trying to get our faith-based message across and hopefully bearing each other's burdens!

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  9. Yes, fantasy! That wild idea that one day my review reader will say, 'Brilliant!' Doesn't need any work. Well I've come to the conclusion that if that is the feedback from my reader, I better get another reader. The point of a critic is so they feedback the bad spots. I don't like it very much, but it has to be done.

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    1. You've hit he nail on the head, Meredith.(bad cliche)Early on I tried a couple of friends and they said "Good". Didn't tell me a thing! Time to admit my husband is great when I ask how a male character would react in such a situation. It's also fun when my grown son steps in and gives his opinion.

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  10. Rita, I wouldn't be without my two critiquers/editors - not sure exactly what to call them, as they are very honest and capable and do far more than saying 'That's good!', that's for sure! They are different ages, which is great, and one has a different worldview from mine, but I find that helpful, as it challenges me to be very real in my writing. And both have eyes like hawks and usually pick up most of my typos or spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as continuity issues and things like characters acting or speaking out of character! So I am very thankful for them. Yes, it was hard to hand over my precious 'baby' earlier on in my writing journey, but now I realise it is just part of the process.

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  11. You are really, really blessed Jo-Anne. Maybe I am also with my two "boys" giving their honest opinions!

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  12. Hi Rita,
    I can't think how I missed seeing this post before. I agree with Francine Rivers completely regarding the critique group, and for the same reasons. Groups, to me, have always made me come away feeling like a confusing cacophany in my head. Yet I've heard others declare that their critique group is so valuable, I thought I must be a downright weirdo. To me, going it alone until I've finished and then putting it forward to an editor or two whose opinions I trust and understand has always been enough for me.

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