Sometimes, turning a good story into a great one is as easy as getting a critique. As easy and as hard. Critiques are powerful tools, not to be taken lightly.
The things I’ve been taught by critiques — too many to count. How to slay passive voice. How to deepen POV. What parts of my writing really stink. Practical ways to show instead of tell. Grammar refreshers. Awkward sentences to fix. Places that lag. Generally, how to write better. Sometimes it hurts, but it’s always good.
I love Critique Circle because each chapter I put up gets 2-4 (or sometimes more) critiques from people who all have different backgrounds, experience, expertise, and things they look for.
For a while, I even had a “crit partner”. We got to the point where we knew each other’s stories well, and knew each other a bit, so that we could yell at each other when we messed up. I loved it because he wouldn’t let me get away with things. He’d say, Beth, I know you can do better than this. Now go fix it. And he loved it because I was meticulous at catching his grammar errors and making sure his story improved.
Critiques have taught me so much of what I know about writing. And you know what? They’ve put fuel in my tank to keep writing and keep improving. People that enjoyed a chapter of my story. People saying “I want to read more.” Those are lifelines to an author. People saying, “You know what, I wish I could write dialogue like you.” And even sometimes, “This totally stinks, but keep you head up and keep writing anyways.”
Now, there is a hidden, sometimes overlooked value in critiques: what you learn by giving them. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been giving a crit and said, OOoooh, that’s a vile thing to do. Wait…. wait, I do that too. Oh crud. So then I can go fix it. ANNND, it’s trained me to be a much more meticulous proofreader of my own writing. And every piece of writing I come across.
WARNING: being a writer and giving critiques may make you paranoid about all writing. You may be reading magazine articles, published books, children’s stories, etc, and feel the need to critique them. I know I certainly do. But the pros of Critiques far outweigh the risks. 🙂