This is a partial repeat of a post I did in 2010. Yes (!) we’ve been at this blog for a number of years. I’m re-posting it with new commentary for I think it is a recurring theme for all of us who write.
We all have experienced the challenges of working in our little caves, our dens of solitude, our escapes for the “real” world as we pen to paper—or fingers to the keyboard. We also have heard many times that a writers needs critique partners, someone or multiple people to read and comment on our work as it progresses from major plot points, character development and eventually to the line edits that somehow never seem to end.
I have discovered I have mixed feelings about critique partners and crit groups. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am open to all sorts of criticism. I know many who say their work would be thin and weak without the input of other writers they trust. I believe in that.
Yet, when is the best time to seek input and from whom?
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had just returned from a brainstorming session in Italy with a group of writers. This is our second “annual” time together plus additional time at conferences. I put “annual” in quotation marks because we really are in touch more times in a day than I can count. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
In my work, I used to think that if I talked about it too early in the development of the story, I lost something. I have been accused by my family of not sharing enough. They want to read—now! It often was if I shared when I was still in the incubation stage I absorbed too many of the comments and found myself without “my” story. Well, I now am changing my tune.
I think my writing and my self-confidence in my writing have grown since I posted back in 2010. I have come to the conclusion that there are, for me, three times that seeking input, criticism and commentary is invaluable.
The first is at the inception of a story. It’s when there is nothing sacred. A seed but no plant. It’s a major “what-if” game. Our brainstorming group would have each person throw out what was the germ of an idea, or a problem in a plot, or some general concern. The group focused only on that. Ideas bounced around the room like balls in a pool hall. Some ideas were fantastically important to growing the story. Some were so absurd that they have become inside jokes. We all grew.
The second time it’s important to me to have input is when I have almost 200 pages written. I need a set of eyes to tell me where the holes are. Where my mind has been racing and I know the story but haven’t told it as cogently as it should be written. It’s a groaning time. I think I’m two-thirds done and really have to look at it all over again. I can’t thank my readers enough for their honesty. Holes aren’t good.
The next time I need input is clean editing. I’m pretty good at line editing other people’s work. My own creates a bigger challenge. I’ve read it so many times, fixed so many errors, and found the word “just” 210 times. Fresh eyes are a gift.
I salute my brainstorming group and my wonderfully generous writer friends who willingly read for me with honest feedback.