The Joy of Critique

Friday, June 15, 2007, 12:13 PM

The very kind McKoala, a fellow regular over at the Crapometer, is currently beta reading my latest novel, and has been sending me updates. Plus, a first run at a hook for it just got critiqued at the Crapometer, too.

Getting critique is good.

Getting good critique is even better.

There will always, I suppose, be that defensive moment when you think "What?! You're saying my baby isn't perfect?" But, when you set your ego aside, the value of someone with a skilled eye finding the weaknesses in your work is immeasurable. As I've been going through McKoala's comments (she has taken the time to give a detailed commentary, for which I am incredibly grateful) I have had many "D'oh!" moments where stupid mistakes are pointed out, or gaps in logic, or lapses in believability. Would I have spotted these myself? I should have, probably, but when you've written a work of novel length, and re-read it yourself, your eyes can't be trusted. Perhaps if I let it sit untouched for six months then went back to it, I might spot these flaws, but having someone else find them saves so much time. And there's no guarantee I'd ever spot them at all.

What's even more useful, and something you could never do for yourself, is objectively measuring the value of a scene or character to the overall story. Only a dispassionate critiquer can do that. Also, the overall arc of the story and its cast can only be effectively judged by someone who hasn't had these things in their head for months. Good critique is the most important resource an aspiring writer can have, and I'm glad I have a couple of people who can do this for me. Another kind soul will be beta reading over the next week or so, and I'm looking forward to her opinions, too. When it comes time to start serious revisions, I'll have a great head start thanks to these good folks.


Blogger McKoala said...

omg saw my name in the first line and nearly had a heart attack! All good though, I think, I hope. The joys of critique, eh.

I think you know from the Crapometer that I pretty much tell it as I see it. If you catch me being mealy-mouthed that usually means I hate it, but I'd never say... (don't go checking back on my crapometer entries, it was never anything of yours!). Comments mean I like it.

You may find critiquers sometimes comment on the same thing. Those are the comments to really listen to - if several people spot something, then you can be pretty sure it matters. Some comments will obviously be personal, those you can ignore if you don't like 'em - it's your book. Then there are the ones that fall in the middle - the ones that kind of make sense, but you liked that sentence the way it was - the ones that mean rewriting a big chunk - the ones that are just plain difficult to get your head around. They're the ones I hate!

So, to sum up, I'm saying...what am I saying? Probably that we're all a big bundle of preferences and predjudices and that you should filter novel critiques as you would filter anything else. Like a friend saying 'I hate that colour on you' when you know she's been looking everywhere for that same shirt and just wants you to hand it over. Like my preference for psychological mystery over political thriller - this will colour my reading of your manuscript, so watch me on that one.

I'd never hurt your baby!

I'm 99% sure that your other critique partner is a genius, so I'd listen to her if I were you.

1:28 AM  
Blogger Conduit said...

I intend to listen to both of you - and once again, your input is greatly appreciated.:)

12:27 PM  

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