Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Critiquer's Responsibility

In my last post, I mentioned the new critique group I joined.  While everyone was very nice and it was good to meet new people, I didn't get a sense of anyone's writing, because nobody read anything.  That, in itself, makes it hard to judge whether this group will be a good fit.  It does get me out of the house at least once a month and with my second meeting coming up, I'm left wondering what my responsibility to this new group of writers is.

I've been added to their emails and over the past couple of weeks gotten some things that really left me wondering what I should do.

The first was a query letter one of them was sending to a local publisher.  This particular guy seems to be the "published author" of the group.  I did some research.  It smacks of self-publishing, which don't quite cut it with me.  The query he wrote was pretty off too.  I realize I'm no expert, but I have gotten requests for partials and fulls, which is kind of the point of the query, I think.  Still, I'm the new guy in the group and, having met these people only once, I don't want to go in there tearing up everything they do.  At least not until they get to know me better.

The second thing I got was two chapters of what the writer describes as her first attempt to write a book.  It needs work.  Lots of it.  But with this, I can help.  The fact that it is a very rough first draft might allow me a bit more freedom with my critique and I don't see any reason not to dive in and help to the best of my ability.

I believe a good critique must contain an honest breakdown of the piece in question.  I don't want to sound harsh, but I want the writer to improve where needed.  I was once told that a good critique will have bad stuff sandwiched by praise.  In other words, "You did this well.  You can improve here.  I really like this."

But this group has been together 7 years and I'm still not sure how they operate.  So I ask, what is my responsibility as a critiquer in a new group?


Steven J. Wangsness said...

You make the canapes.

(Former Travener speaking here.)

MC Howe said...

You refer, I presume, to bread, not furniture, or a style of bidding in the card game bridge.

So is Travener no more? How sad. Yet I see he still posts. Have you handed his avatar to another? Like someone else becoming Batman after Bruce Wayne?

Jeanne said...

New groups means you tread softly. When I joined our group, I tried to be a fly on the wall until I sensed what would be acceptable and what would not. I did not want anyone to get mad at a new person. I've only had a couple of instances where ego got in the way. You have a lot of good suggestions and a good head on your shoulders for writing so go for the gusto and show them what you are made of.