I am incredibly lucky to belong to the Wordwrights, a local writing group. I get to submit my writing and have it critiqued. I always learn from this. It’s taken me a while but I finally have a system of what to do with those critiques once I have them.
In the group, we submit a piece of our writing to be read and critiqued at the next month’s meeting. Last month I handed out a short story. This month the group discussed it and then everyone handed me back the copies with written comments. During the meeting, I make notes about the comments I hear. I get to listen to how people felt about the overall impression of the writing and then go home and read the details.
It can be a bit overwhelming to sit down with all of those copies and all of those written comments. Here’s how I handle it.
First I read through each copy. I do a lot of nodding and forehead banging when an obvious spelling, punctuation or grammar error is highlighted. I smile at the compliments. Then I frown and take any suggestions about improving the piece very seriously.
I open the file on my computer so that I can make the changes as I find them.
I go through them all again, page by page and line by line. I look at each critique one page at a time, keeping them all open to the same page looking for places where most of the readers found something that needs improving or correcting. By having them all open to the same page I can immediately see when everyone found the same mistake, which means I have to change that. If the majority of readers find the same mistake, I correct it without hesitation.
Sometimes one reader will make a comment or suggest a change which none of the other readers picked up. That’s when I make a judgment call. Since I know that the readers are seeing the writing objectively for the first time I assume that they are picking up a defect that I’ve missed. But when only one reader finds something that isn’t clear I try to determine if it really is something that needs improving.
If I can’t see what they are seeing then I read it out loud to hear what they are referring to. This is a great way to find mistakes in writing.
After I’ve given it careful thought, I decide if it’s something that I need to change.
Our group is very diverse which works out well while doing critiques. The writers in the group who write nonfiction are a great audience for my fantasy or science fiction because if they ‘get’ what my story is trying to say then I know I’ve communicated it clearly.
Ultimately, unless it’s a clear mistake with spelling, grammar or punctuation, the other comments of what works or not, are opinions of the readers. I can then agree or not, with what they say.
I take all of their comments to heart. They’ve put time and effort into critiquing my writing. I appreciate and trust their comments. I feel very lucky to belong to such a great group.
- Critique Group Procedure / Tips for a critique group (clarbojahn.wordpress.com)