Monday, June 9, 2008

Alone Together: A Tale of Give and Take

Current Reading: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Inspirational Quote: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip." -- Elmore Leonard

Faber and Mazlish has made the Current Reading header a number of times. It's not a tough read, but it's an important one. I feel it necessary to take notes, and to read it while the kids are elsewhere doing other things. This slows me down and a book which should only take a weekend has now taken several months.

I've been a member of Critters for seven weeks. One of my short stories has been through the mill, and I've critiqued six short stories and one long opening novel chapter for other readers.


Critters serves up roughly 30 manuscripts a week, from which I choose one for critique. As a result, I don't have a large enough sample to draw any representative conclusions.


So far, I have seen work that varies from mediocre to good. I have yet to read anything truly abominable or anything truly outstanding. In my opinion, every piece has had something missing or something not quite right, but then Critters exists because that is the case with every piece of writing and the only way to find and fix those weaknesses is to have someone point them out.


The effort of writing a critique every week has made me more aware my own weaknesses.

My first story resulted in over thirty critiques, each at least 200 words. That's more than 6000 words on a story just under 2500 words long. That's a lot of reader feedback. Most comments were valuable, confirming weaknesses I already suspected were there. A few were not. They brought up points with which I did not agree. A few other critiques were invaluable. They pointed out flaws of logic, inconsistencies of character and holes in plot that I had completely missed.

In general, I think that if I followed the majority of the advice I received, I would end up with a better, stronger story.


Although it's still very early in the experiment, I believe the broad exposure to critical readers will have a positive impact on my work. I'm certainly thinking more critically about things than I was before I joined. I find 200 word critiques a little short to receive and a little long to write (I'm aware of the contradiction), but I'm going to continue. My next short story comes up in 3 weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing the responses.

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