Critiquing other people’s work

(Warning… the following post contains excessive use of the word “critique”… Viewer discretion is advised.)

I think I may have mentioned it but three weeks ago I joined ( an online critique group.  The premise of the site is simple:  you critique other’s work and get credits for the critiques and, in turn, you can submit your work to be critiqued.

Sounds simple enough, right?  In fact, it is simple; the site sends you three selections to critique every week and all you have to do to stay a member in good standing is keep up a 75% critique ratio (3 critiques completed every 4 weeks).  Members are also asked to keep the critiques professional and are advised to be diplomatic when describing what didn’t work.

In other words, come up with a better way to say “You suck!” (btw, tongue is firmly in cheek).

So far, I have completed three critiques.  The shortest was about 200 words long and the longest was over 500.  In case you’re wondering, the 200 word critique was for the best story I’ve read to date.  Obviously, the stories that are more challenged have more things to comment on.

In every submission, the author has sent me a note thanking me for my time which was very nice if unexpected.  I honestly thought I would get flamed on the two stories I thought were weaker (note the diplomatic turn of phrase there).  That wasn’t because I was rude or mean.  It was just because I know what it’s like to send a story in (that I think is quite good) only to have less than stellar remarks about it.  It hurts.

Maybe knowing what it’s like to get bad negative feedback has made me hypersensitive to giving it.

In the short time I’ve been doing it I have already learned a lot.  First, the stuff I write isn’t terrible.  Trust me, I’ve read terrible and even with my biased view I know mine is good.  The second is how certain things appear to me, the reviewer (see reader).  It is giving me a better idea of what to watch for in my own writing.  Third, I know what works for me grammatically but don’t ask me to explain the rules of grammar.  I focus on how the story ebbs and flows; line edits can be left for someone else.  Fourth and final, I think I can edit my own writing better because of the practice I’ve had critiquing other people’s work.

That’s all fine and good, but how will this actually get my work published, you may ask.  Your question is an excellent one.

I had the opportunity a couple months ago to sit down and talk to Brian Hades of Edge Publishing.  I told him about the projects I was working on and did an informal pitch for my fantasy novel.  I explained to him that I had submitted it to Edge once before and been rejected.  I also told him how I had let the novel rest for several months and now could see the flaws in it.  I was in the process of rewriting the story.

He asked me if I was working with a critique group, local or virtual.  He told me how much a crit group could help my novel.  He strongly encouraged me to get involved with one.  When I told him I was planning to join Critters he heartily approved.

Does that tell you anything?

When I resubmit the story to Edge (and I WILL be resubmitting it) I will be mentioning that the story has gone through Critters.  I have no doubt that Brian will look more closely at it because of that fact.

Of course, I have to actually submit it through Critters and heed the critiques I receive.

Personal Update

My fantasy novel rewrite has slipped past 7,500 words.  Nowhere near where it should be, but considering all the lost weekends to other commitments, I’m not going to get upset.

I STILL haven’t heard back for either ‘Mik Murdoch’ or ‘Summer Camp Secrets’.  Soon (next week or so) I will be calling the publisher about ‘Mik Murdoch’.  SCS is still to early for that.

World Fantasy Convention is approaching FAST!  I’m gearing up with no little excitement.

Last, but definitely no least, Nanowrimo will soon be here.  I’ve got several plans in place for Nano but the most likely one is to write a YA Novel that I pitched to my kids several months ago.  They’ve both been nagging me to write it ever since so I guess the idea is good.


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