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Friday, July 6, 2012

What writers need now more than ever.

What we writers need now more than ever is each other. We need to form groups that work together to help each other reach her potential as a writer.

As critique partners, what do we need? We need double-blind critiquing. We need middle men to dish out authors' writings to anonymous readers. Neither the writer nor the reader knows who each other is. We need honest, no-holds-barred critiquing.

I think each writer who submits work through such a system needs to preface the work with what his intentions are. For example: I'm writing a historical romance that I hope will make the bestseller list. Or: I'm a literary writer. I don't care about plot so much as writing that is engaging and explores xyz (some aspect of the human condition). Or: I'm a YA writer of supernatural thrillers. I want the reader to be wrapped up in a world like none he's ever known. By doing this, the critic will not be trying to get the writer to write what the critic thinks she should be writing, but helping the writer accomplish what she is trying to accomplish.

As a critical reader, we need to do our best to give honest, constructive feedback. We should try to read as editor's would read: spot the problems and point them out for the writer to fix.

This could be a long-term endeavor. No one should enter into it who isn't willing to do his best to stay for the long haul. But any one's situation can change and, after starting, finds that he cannot continue. Then he can discontinue without any negative repercussions. Of course, any writer can quit any time for any reason.

What do you think? Do you think this is a good idea? Would you participate in something like that? I don't know that this will go anyplace, but I'd like to hear your thoughts about it.

13 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

I belong to a group called The Next Big Writer. It's a critique group that you have to pay for. It's not too expensive but it does cost. But, I've become a better writer because of the honest feedback.

Richard said...

@Clarissa: I've heard of it. I'll look into it again.

Tanya Reimer said...

I tried this once with not the best of luck. I had a few problems; I couldn't call and ask anonymous what the heck they meant by certain comments- and so they left me uncertain if I was on the right track- and sadly, I felt like they didn't care about the MS as much as I did. Perhaps it was just an unlucky break, but it was a crit that really set my writing back instead of pushing it forward.

Now I find I get to know writers' strengths and I send a MS to one who I know will help me with the issues I can't work through on my own.

Richard said...

@Tanya: yeah, I'm sure it would be a near miracle if it worked. I'm just fortunate I've had good beta readers like you and Clarissa to help me with my MSs

Jeff Hargett said...

He who findeth an adept critique partner/group findeth a good thing. Like writing, critiquing is as much art as skill.

A writer makes both a great and horrible CP, I think. We know what to look for, what to ask, what rips us out of the story, etc. However, we also have a tendency to try to critique other people's writing as if it were our own writing if we're not careful.

As with anything, the skill of critiquing improves only with experience and conscientious awareness of our purpose and the writer's needs/desires. For example, word choice and sentence structure suggestions are of little benefit to a writer seeking feedback on plot and characterization.

I've longed to find a local, face-to-face critique group, but have been very pleased with the few critiques I've received from people I've met online.

Yes, it bears repeating: He who findeth an adept critique partner/group findeth a good thing.

Richard said...

@Jeff: you're absolutely right. I've been fortunate on all accounts. I wish you could find a local critque group. But your writing is already at a high level. Just finishing is your goal now.

Kamille Elahi said...

I'm only friends with a couple of writers but I don't think I could cope with all my friends being writers. I would need to at least be able to get away from the craziness every now and then.

I do agree that we need the support from each other though.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Luckily I belong to two good writing groups that have really helped me hone my writing, and I like it that I know them and can ask for clarification if I don't understand a point, and also can bounce off alternatives. I also feel more committed to them than if they were anonymous. I wouldn't enjoy the kind of group you are describing, although it's an interesting idea.

Richard said...

@everyone: sounds like my idea won't work. The idea of anonymity bothers people too much; it's a valid point.

Julia Hones said...

I like the idea. Anonymity has its value. I think it is important to avoid bias.

Elise Fallson said...

I don't know about anonymity. I feel like I need to trust the person I'm handing my ms to. They certainly don't (and shouldn't be) my best friend, but I would like to know something about the person reviewing my work even if it's strictly on the professional level. But, I agree with you that writers have to stick together and we all need good CPs, and beta readers.

Richard said...

@Julia: that was at the heart of my idea; I imagined a business manager kind of middleman who would coordinate everything. Perhaps, an administrator is a better word. She would be the conduit of flow between writers and readers. The writings would have a number code that connects it with the reader, who also has a number code. Then communication could pass back and forth between the reader and writer, yet both remain anonymous.

Richard said...

@ Elise: Under my systme, it would be possible to know something about the reader without knowing who the reader is. That would be the job of the administrator to provide that kind of info.