I’ve nearly overwhelmed myself, but I’m plowing through. This is the official “Week of the Critique” for me.
Monday night in my novel writing workshop, I was critiqued by the group and it was my first time. It was a very productive and helpful session. The group talked about my first chapter for about 20-25 minutes and then I got ten very detailed written critiques. I was really impressed with how thorough and how thoughtful all of the critiques were. The best part of getting so much feedback is that I can easily read through each of the ten write ups and find consensus about things that did and didn't work for these readers.
It was a very positive experience and I feel fortunate to have such a great group of people in my workshop. One of the other writers compared the experience to a focus group, and it really was. It was interesting to sit quietly while people debated aspects of character, or discussed interpretations of relationships and dialogue. Charles Gramlich at Razored Zen posted the other day about an article he’s planning to write about the differences between online and actual writing groups. I learned Monday that it’s a huge benefit to listen to several people discussing the work, because many of the things discussed didn’t necessarily come across in the written critiques. This tends to apply to situations where people have made assumptions and find that other readers didn't interpret what they read in the same way.
I’d also gotten a detailed written critique the day before from another friend, so I have a total of eleven critiques of my first thirteen pages!
But now it’s payback time. I need to critique a piece for our next session on Monday, but before that, I have to finish critiquing eight excerpts for a conference hosted by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers this weekend. I’m auditing an agent workshop on Friday afternoon, so the eight actual participants will get critiqued by each other, the agent and five auditors.
I found it interesting that without a specific format for the critiques, everyone does his or her own thing. All of the pages had writing on them, some people chose to write summaries on the backs of pages and some typed up comments in their own format, broken down into categories.
For the sake of standardization, I decided to use the form that one of my critiquers used for my feedback and it seems to be working well. The eight excerpts I’m reading are a really mixed bag. There is one humorous piece, set in post WWII New York City, a historical peace that spans a lifetime, starting in the Ante-Bellum south, there is a modern YA tale with a premise based on technology and computer hacking, a cozy mystery, a coming of age, a historical romance, a thriller, and an action-adventure. Each also has a one page synopsis and it’s interesting to note the differences. One synopsis left me flat, but the excerpt is written extremely well. One synopsis is really good, but the excerpt wasn’t nearly as promising as the synopsis and the rest all fall all over the map. I can't imagine how agents deal with reading and assessing all the queries they get.
The weekend starts on Friday with the start of the Colorado Gold Conference, hosted by the RMFW. I registered for it months ago, so I didn't know it would coincide with The Lighthouse Writers Workshop Tobias Wolff events, which include two workshops and a fund raising dinner! I double booked myself and will have to make choices between sessions and events all weekend and dash between venues all over
Monday night I’ll be back in workshop, detailed critique in hand.
Whew! I’m looking forward to the weekend, but I’ll be relieved when all of my critiquing duties are behind me for another week.
For those of you who have had experiences on both sides of the critique, what are your thoughts about giving and receiving feedback?