Critique My Writing

As I went through the manuscript doing rewrites, I realized nearly every issue my editor had with my work turned out to be something I’d added or subtracted at the request of various critique groups. Actually, much of my editor’s criticism made me feel vindicated.He gave me the courage to ignore a whole lot of what I heard in group critiques after that.Sure, a mystery needs details to set the scene, but they should be added with quick, precise brushstrokes, not mellifluous lines of poesy. If you’re writing domestic literary fiction, a romantic comedy, or office satire, you don’t want to take advice from somebody like the thriller writer who once critiqued my work saying,”up the stakes! I don’t even believe the villain is going to rape her.” No. The bad guy was going to pull her book from the publishing calendar.

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I was surprised my book needed so much work with pacing and character arcs.

I didn’t realize that even though a book has been thoroughly critiqued by a group doesn’t mean it has been edited. This means they often ignore the most important aspect of a novel—the story structure.

And the conspiracy theorist who doesn’t want you to mention JFK without adding the “fact” that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for Lizard People from Planet Zog.

These people are telling you about themselves, not what your book needs.

Not all conflict is centered on rape, torture, or murder.

People who don’t know that can only critique thrillers. One or two unwell members can make a group feel like an unsafe place for many of us. But sometimes a good group has one or two people who are simply annoying.

Sometimes when you use a critique group, you mistakenly feel your book is polished and ready to go.

But when you send it to an agent or editor, you’ll get back a lot of negative feedback about “structure” or “pacing.” This is when you really need the help of an editor.

If you can let yourself ignore them, you’ll do fine. There’s the believer in alien abduction who wants big-eyed gray persons in every scene of your book.

And the recently sober 12-stepper who says all your characters are addicts.


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