It can be a startlingly negative thing, to be in a roomful of strangers picking apart what is wrong (even if positive elements are mentioned too) with a piece of writing.
I have no doubt that each person in both of my critique groups at the Big Sur in the Rockies writing workshop could make a success of this writing business.
A lot of work, patience, and doses of perspective would all be necessary. But each one, in their own completely unique way could bring some wonderful books into the world.
It’s so much easier for me to say that about others than myself.
But it’s true of me, too.
So, a little about what I learned, some exciting new industry terms (: and a bit about how to give good writing feedback —
NEW VOCABULARY includes:
The concept of set-up & pay-off.
Dialogue tags (she said, he said), and
“Chunk ability,” in terms of picture books: discreet scenes that are tightly focused incidents, that connected, build – thank you to Jennifer Mattson for telling us about that last one (and I can’t remember who she said she heard it from :).
I was already exposed to some of these terms but didn’t really know what they meant, or apply them to me or my writing, before this weekend.
I learned a lot. Linda Arms White kindly warned us all about driving carefully on the way home, because our heads would be so packed full of new information we might find it hard to concentrate on the road. This was a true statement and the laughter was welcome at the end of an intense weekend.
So about what I learned re: critiquing successfully.
Giving feedback that is constructive is a great thing.
Remembering the fact that we’re all in this together – to help each other get better, and to bring more good books into the world, helps encourage generosity of sharing and helps people concentrate on another person’s writing, versus falling into the main flow of society which is battling for prominence.
Emphasizing positivity and specificity, which requires really looking and listening, can only help raise the level of group discussion.
My favorite moments during the critique sessions were when a roomful of writers began striking off each other, causing sparks of inspiration for someone about their book — true creative brainstorms. Those were fun moments.
I came across this excellent article, which talks about constructive critiquing — including offering solutions but not re-writing for the writer, genuine praise and being specific.