Monday, February 5, 2018

Who Is Giving You Feedback

I have talked about critique groups here in the past, but I thought today would be a good time to remind people of this again.

Writing is an isolated activity. We sit at the computer and create stories that are coming 100% out of our own heads. We have technology to check for spelling and grammar. We have the Internet to track down research and even figure out who to send our projects to for consideration. And yet, being a professional writer is also about putting our writing out there for other people to read and interact with. For this reason, we need to hear from others about our writing and what they think about the writing.

For some writers, this is difficult. We are ashamed of our writing. We are self-conscious of our writing. Putting our writing out there for other who might potentially tell you the writing is garbage is tough. But it is needed.

So, we create critique groups. We meet with other writers to get feedback on the writing. But here is the thing to consider. Who is the person who is reading your writing? Do they have a clue about what makes a good story or not? Do they know what it takes to be published? We can even extend on this idea of asking if that person who is teaching that workshop really understands what he or she is talking about?

Before I talk about those critique groups, let me address that whole workshop thing. Over the years, I have seen people teaching workshops who simply had no business teaching that material. For example, right after I opened Greyhaus, I attended a conference where the winners of a contest were being announced. The editor who read the work was there and she proceeded to say, everyone who made it to the semi-final rounds would get a contract. While that sounded great, here comes the twist. Several years later, I saw a writer who was part of that group teaching workshops on quality writing. What is amazing is that this person never wrote another book beyond that first one. In fact, this author had been rejected on every other project she had written. And yet, she was being advertised as someone who really knew how to write.

What about those workshops being taught by people outside of the genre? This would be like me, who knows romance and women's fiction, teaching a class on memoir writing. Probably not the best source.

I think you get the idea.

Now, let's talk about those critique partners. You have gotten a group of writers together who really want to improve their writing, but if everyone is unpublished and trying to get to the same location, you have an issue of the blind leading the blind.

Consider this. I visited a writing chapter where the majority of people were published. But here is the thing. They were all published with the same digital only small press. This simply tells me that the level of their learning and feedback is ONLY limited to that group.

Your critique group is the same thing. Who are your members? They may be enthusiastic about being published and improving, but if their skills are not there, are they giving you the feedback you need? Along the same lines, are these people REALLY willing to tell you the truth? Sometimes, telling someone their writing is garbage is difficult.

So stop and think who is giving you the feedback? Is this person an authoritative person to give you the feedback you need? 

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