My critique style once made a student switch classes. I was taking a philosophy class in college where we would read one chapter of Plato’s Republic, then based on three possible essay questions, write a 350 word essay-had to be within three words of that length-argue for or against the topic. It was a very formulaic essay. Thesis, explain yourself, counter argument, then counter the counter argument. The teacher broke us into groups of 4-5 students that would meet once a week for one hour. One-two student(s) would read their essay and the others would debate/discuss it.
Well, in High School, I’d learned to write down my comments during class discussions, so I could remember what I was going to say. Thus, the first speaker had gone and I’d taken notes and given 3 or 4 comments from what I’d written. Then, the second person read their essay. I took a bunch of notes and we were almost out of time, so I asked if I could just make my comments, he didn’t need to address them. The student shook his head and fled class.
Next session, our teacher said someone had dropped out of another section and asked if anyone wanted to switch. He raised his hand, looked me down, and scurried out of the room as soon as he was excused.
I loved that class.
I don’t think I’m excessively aggressive or nit-picking, but I’ve definitely learned to only say one or two things, until everyone else has spoken up. Then, maybe, if it’s really necessary, add in another point or two.
At Balticon, my last panel was “How To Give A Good Critique” that focused on where you can get a critique and what to watch out for from bad critiquers. The most intensive with pre-vetted critiquers are the 1-6 week live in workshops, then the weekend workshops. Open local critique groups and online critique groups are more available and welcoming, but the other critiquers are less vetted, so you’ll have to learn what feedback is useful and what isn’t.
Here is some of the information they shared.
6 Formal Workshops:
- Clarion and Clarion West– 6 weeks, live in, with 6 teachers (1 editor, 5 writers) that each teach for a week and critique. (San Diego and Seattle)
- Taos Toolbox – 2 week, live in, 2 teachers, 2 guest speakers, Taos, NM.
- Sail to Success – 5 day Bahama cruise, 4 days of classes, get your work critiqued.
- Viable Paradise – 1 week, martha’s vinyard (Applications for this year’s in October, due JUNE 15!)
- Oddessey – 6 weeks, 1 main person w/ guest lecturers
2 Informal Workshops:
- sffwritersworkshop.com – Offers Chapter critiques. (Don’t EVERY put your stuff on the internet somewhere not password protected or that counts as Publishing and will make it harder to sell.)
- BSFS – Baltimore Science Fiction Society hosts day long workshops, every 3-4 months
7 Recommended Sites for Querying/Submitting and Advice
- QueryShark – ALWAYS FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES – Has advice and breakdowns of queries, pointing out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- The Passive Voice – has contract and writing advice
- ralan.com – has market links of where to submit
- The Submission Grinder– market links of where to submit
- The Baen Bar – You can workshop books here. (Note: Baen itself has a 7-8 year lead time between accepting and publishing a book…)
- Goodreads – useful for networking and there are groups, like an online flash-fiction group
- Writer’s Digest -has lots of great advice, but the workshops are less useful.
3 Types of Critique Groups
- Southern/Northern Colorado Workshop – pre-read, round-robin feedback, writer is silent ’til end, then rebuts. Hosted in houses. (Connie Willis)
- BSFS — You read 2-3,000 words aloud, then people give feedback (Sarah Pinsker)
- The Writers of the Weird near NJ. Someone else reads your 2,000 word selection aloud, so you can watch reactions and listen where they stumble. (Alex Schwatzman)
2 Online Critique Groups – (NOTE: If it’s not password protected it counts as published)
- Codex Writers
- Critters.org – (although, more noise to signal)
6 Tips On Finding The Right Critique Group
- Surround yourself with people who challenge you. Join a group, then just exchange info with the people you actually found useful. (KM Szpara)
- Some groups will be more focused, some are more moral support and hanging out. Useful, but not great for a critique group.
- Advantage: you can see how many people get what you’re trying to say. Are they the right audience or do you need to rewrite?
- Disadvantage: some people who just want their own work critiqued and don’t put in the effort to critique others. That means they never learn how to critique themselves.
- The feedback SHOULD be hard to hear. Connie Willis said she would seeth for a week, then end up fixing what they’d said– and sell it!
- Worst type of critiquer – Zero Sum – they’re there to win, prove you wrong and them right.
Do you have any Workshops, Critique Groups, or other sites you’ve found that have helped you? If so, please let me know!
P.S. My inner drama llama wants to hear about any run-ins you’ve have with ‘The Wrong Critiquer.’
While still in the learning-to-write stage, I got a lot of good critiques from Scribophile.com.