(Originally posted on Genre Bender)
Joining a professional writers group has been the best thing I’ve done for my writing career to date. I’ve learned more about writing fiction participating in critiques than I have any other way. And I’ve learned the most from watching others critique others. (For more on critiquing and maybe a place to get started, The Online Writing Workshop and Critters)
I know that there’s this “thing” out there where writers are supposed to be fragile egos. Well, I went through art school, that builds up a thick skin. Calluses from the friction of critique ever single day. However, the critique is about the work, not about the person. And getting criticism from people you know, people you can ask for follow up, and from people who know how to tell a story is about the best thing you can do as a young writer.
But I’m going to touch on one subject in regards to critique workshops or groups. What do you do with conflicting critiques? (edit: Last month's meeting of the) writers group I belong to went over my latest story A History of Lightning and there were many points that the critiquers agreed on (end doesn’t have enough tension, I should forecast some things earlier, I wasn’t being true to my POV character at the end), but there were plenty where they split on advice. When everybody (or at least a clear majority) agrees that you should fix something, you really should fix it.
In case of tie, decision goes to the author. However, that doesn’t mean you should just go with your original. It means you need to think it over if you should change it or not.
My title, about as many people liked it as didn’t like it. I personally suck at short story titles and was hoping for some direction here. I’ll wait to see the handwritten notes before I decide this one. I think it’s evocative, but not really resonate with the story (it was a good working title, though).
An equal number of people felt having all the characters having on syllable names and that the two main characters are known as Ben and Jed just served to confuse the reader. Just as many felt it was perfectly fine. I think I’ll refrain from naming the bartender (he doesn’t need one here), and I’ll rename some of the other characters, but I’ll keep Ben and Jed (short for Benjamin and Jeddediah).
They split on my language usage, some calling it too “purple prosy.” One person had a distinct disfavor for my use of gerunds (although I think it was the participles and prepositional phrases). Here I’m going to keep the language poetic (that’s my style), but I’ll try and eliminate some of the gerunds (which I should anyway) any participles that dangle. General note here, gerunds often denote simultaneous action when it rarely is simultaneous.
I guess I also didn’t catch all the similes and all the typos. Some tortured sentence structure continues to cause mischief (and the worst one, that I rewrote every time I went through the story) I may just cut the idea out.
So, there you have it. Just because the tie goes to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something about it. The good thing for me is most people said they enjoyed the story. One person complained about the Frankenstein reference, but more people liked it, and I think it’s critical to the story, so I’m pumping that up.