How Does Critiquing Make YOU A Better Writer?

I’m not back regularly, and will be busy with NaNoWriMo in particular for the next two weeks, but I wanted to have a discussion about something many writers will have to face once their story has been written, whether it takes a month or not, getting feedback to make it better.

I can’t count how many articles I’ve read and interviews I’ve seen, heard or read where it’s said at some point “Get second eyes on your writing.” Not just for the technical stuff, which as important as it is, I really find it a pain sometimes, but also for things that don’t work or should be removed, and often the case for me, doesn’t make sense as currently written.

But how can you help others when you barely can help your own craft quirks and missteps ?

While many have told me you just have to say what I like and what I don’t if I can’t be technically helpful, I’m not simply talking about reading tastes and other subjective things like that. I just really don’t feel I can help to the extent I was helped. It’s one of the key reasons I had to leave my first critique group.

I was, and sadly still am, weak in the areas they excelled, so often I felt like if they had issues I’d never had or understood, how could I be helpful?

People can say “What X character did isn’t convincing” until the cows come home, but knowing that, and even agreeing that is the case, doesn’t mean finding a better way to do it just comes to you, and that’s for critiquing others work and trying to edit and/or revise your own.

So in the comments I urge you to answer the following-

What’s ONE  did you learn from critiquing others writing that made your writing better?

Only one to really zero in on what the greatest takeaway for you is.

Together, let’s try to take crisis out of critiquing others writing, and our own.

Ciao For Now,

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  • Hi Taurean,

    I’ve been in a critique group for about six years, and I feel like I’m terrible at giving critiques. To be honest, the group started out as a “writing group”. We mostly just gathered each week to read our work and encourage one another. I loved that, but somehow, over time it evolved into a critique group. And I feel less and less comfortable there. But I guess if I had to pick one thing, that I learned from the experience, I’d say it’s dialogue.
    I hear a lot of dialogue in our group that goes on and on and on. And maybe a conversation or argument would play out like that in real life, but after hearing it aloud like that, it’s just too much. I think that has helped me to streamline when I’m writing dialogue in my own stories.

  • Thanks for commenting. I certainly know your frustrations in regard to critiquing, even though I wasn’t in my group nearly as long, I left simply because I was no longer able to keep up with the scheduled turnaround times to submit and critique, and being one of the few novelists in the group didn’t help, since short fiction and any nonfiction is not where I shine most of the time.

    Two things I did learn that I wouldn’t have otherwise were-

    1. People over 5 read and love what I write. Whether they’re parents or not.

    2. I had a great support system I couldn’t get elsewhere before joining.

    I do think it was the right thing to leave, because I wasn’t able to pull my weight, and also couldn’t turn around work fast enough, but sometimes that was simply because either the laptop died on me or we had a blackout that lasted days with no way to contact anyone on why I was gone so long, especially if a critique was due.

    The rest of the time it just took forever to find anything that would be helpful, because to me, part of being a good critique partner is to see the story that’s there, not what you think should be there, and I’ve been badly burned by critiques where they wanted so much drastic changes that it wasn’t my story anymore or required skills I didn’t and still don’t have to do right, and finding middle ground with what makes sense and what I can actually pull off just don’t go hand in hand all the time.

    Doesn’t mean the critque was wrong all together, or about a specific point, but if I can’t pull it off, it won’t read any better either, will it?

    Case in point, I try to focus on the changes I can make, and are doable, even if they take longer than I’d like half the time.

  • The thing I learned from critiquing is that it’s tough to see your own weaknesses sometimes. But critiquing helped me because I’d see a writer do something and think that could be stronger. And my next thought is “I do that too!” It helps me reflect on my own writing and figure out ways to improve.