Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guest Blogger - Brenna Ash - To Critique or Not to Critique

Hey guys... we are always looking around for new ideas on critiquing or for other blogs on critiquing. Recently we found this great blog on Brenna Ash’s site.  She was kind enough to let us “borrow” it... so we are presenting it for you. It got us to wondering if any of you out there in writing land, also have some thoughts on critiquing you’d like to share. If so, let us know.  Now enjoy Brenna thoughts on critiquing:

To critique or not to critique...that is the question
by Brenna Ash

There are so many different opinions when it comes to critiquing. Should I have a critique partner? Should it be someone published? Should it be someone that I know? Someone that writes the same thing I do? Same voice, style? The list goes on and on.
Do I have the answers? No, not at all. But since I've been writing I've been in several different types of critique groups.

Way back when I started doing this writing thing, I took a romance writing course. The course was great, contained lots of information that I was totally clueless about and had a lot of attendees. A group of us, about 4 or 5, decided that once the class ended, we would remain in touch and create a critique group amongst ourselves. Well, this worked out okay, we swapped ideas back and forth, offered suggestions, little fixes here and there. It worked since we were all at the beginning of our writing dream. As time went on, we grew apart and for the most part, the group disbanded.

A couple of us from that group went on to another critique group. This one had a mixture of people from various levels of experience but still no one that had been published. These critiques were brutal. Unfortunately, the problem with this group was that everyone had such varying degrees of how things should be written and sort of a my way or the highway mentality. Needless to say, this didn't last long.

I then went on to single critique partners. I matched up with someone I had met in another class. This worked for a while, but we drifted apart as our writing took on different sub-genres that the other wasn't interested in.

Then one of the loops I belong to had a critique partner matching service. So, I said why not and signed up for that, glutton for punishment that I am. This was short-lived. While the critiques were helpful, life got in the way for both of us and our partnership soon fell apart.

Now, all through these critique-dabbling I was doing, I stayed in contact with someone I'd met through the first ever class I'd taken (we're best friends now) and she's always willing to read my work and offer suggestions. She's great and has offered some fantastic ideas and brainstorming moments over the years. I'd be lost without her.

Which brings me to the present. In the last two months or so I really got to think about how I could really use a mentor/critique partner that knows the business. Someone who's been published and would be willing to work with me and be honest and not hold back. I don't have any problems taking criticism. I know my work needs help. Hell, we all have to start somewhere, right?

So, I managed to hook up with a multi-published author to critique with.

This has been the best thing that has happened to my writing in a long, long time.

She is fantastic. I think I had her worried the first time she critiqued my work. She wasn't sure I'd be okay with the in-depth critque she did. She wanted to talk to me before she sent it over.

My thoughts? Hell yeah, I was ready, send it on over.

Believe it or not, my mind didn't change when I saw all of the things I'd done wrong, the grammatical mistakes, the overtalking, the redundancy. So many things, but yet she explained them in a way that made me understand the why of it all.

I'm writing again. Actually, I'm rewriting a manuscript that I finished a while ago and got a request for, but didn't dare send in because I knew how much work it needed and had no idea how to go about starting the transitions. Now I do, and I'm excited about it.

For me, the answer to the question is; yes, to critique. But just be warned, you may have to weed through a lot of partners and groups and it may even take years before you finally find the one that will work. But once you do, it will all have been worth it.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you have a critique partner/group? Why or why not?

Thank you Brenna!
How about all of you out there? Any thoughts on critiquing? We'd love to hear from you. If you would like to do a guest blog for us or if you would like us to critique 200-500 words, please send us your pages to