Monday, May 24, 2010

The Benefit of Critique

It should be pretty obvious what the downsides to critique are. I think I've mentioned them enough in my personal blog that I don't feel the need to go over them again here. Besides, we're writers, right? We can all imagine what the negatives are.

So for this post I thought I'd go ahead and do the positive spin thing and share what I think are some of the less obvious benefits of critique.

It helps you figure out that you're not crazy.

(Or, as Taryn put it earlier today, it helps you figure out that you are).

There's a definite validation that comes with critique. Either you're right, or you're wrong. As long as you can recognize, accept, and grow from being wrong, they're both good feelings.

It gives you a reason to keep writing.

Having someone to be accountable to for why you don't have pages done may be the only push you need to keep going. Sometimes it's too easy to put writing off until later because someone else might not be waiting to read it (at least, pre-book deal). With a critique group, someone definitely is waiting to read it.

It lifts you up when you're low-- and brings you down to Earth when you're, you know, out there.

A critique group can have a magical effect on your soul. And I don't mean to sound sappy, but it's true. Feeling down about your writing? Let them tell you it's good. Or, if you are truly convinced you have written the next Romeo and Juliet, let them gently tell you it's not so. Either way, you are improved for the experience.

It reminds you why you write.

Someone else will like your writing other than you. That, in and of itself, makes it all worth it. In that moment, who cares about agents and editors and NYT bestseller lists? Well, okay, I'll admit most of us probably still do. But for someone else to see right to the heart of your story and come back with a smile on their face is the best feeling in the world. We write for people, not just the titles of agents and editors and faceless lists. People read our stories, and so it's people that matter.

Write for people.

Go out there and get critiqued!


Matthew Delman said...

Yeah, you said it better than I ever could. A crit partner of mine said, after reading the most recent version of SON OF MAGIC, that she felt I could hit NYT Bestseller status easy.

This was after she ripped the story apart and then told me that I was close to having it perfect. So I dunno. Loved hearing it though.

dolorah said...

These are all so true. Thanks for the reminders LT.


Unknown said...

I think the thing I love most about critiques is just having someone besides me read it. Not only do I get lazy when I know no one but me is going to read it --whether by not writing anything at all or simply turning out sloppy pages because --hey I can always fix it later right? --but a story is meant to be told. Sometimes I feel like it doesn't quite exist until someone has read it. Thank you Critics for making my stories exist. :D

Susan R. Mills said...

I love having my writing critqued. I work harder when I know someone is going to be reading it.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love the validation I get from critiques just as much as I enjoy the kick in the pants. I need both of them to keep me going!

Joshua McCune said...

TLCC was the first thing I'd had anybody outside my close family (and agents) read. Definitely lifted my spirits having generally positive feedback, though a large part of me always wants the stake nailed through me so I know where I'm bleeding.

The Daring Novelist said...

This is one of the reasons I like hollywood-style coverage rather than critique.

Coverage is just a reaction, prejudices and biases intact. It's honest, and limited and gives you all the things mentioned above.

Critique (or the culture around it) has that whole _helping_ factor that can get in the way of honesty.

And when I say "honesty" I don't just mean when people say nice things to avoid hurting feelings. Often people who have been taking too many classes or too long involved in a critique group gets caught up in presenting what they've learned, rather than their real reaction. So they may very well feel obligated to criticize any breech of the rules, even if they enjoyed it.

Murr Brewster said... it a bad response to critiques to conclude that everyone else must be sorta dumb? Probably, huh.