Monday, 24 November 2008

What are critiques for?

Following on from my earlier post about writers' groups, I got to thinking: what do we need crits for? OK, I know, I know. We need crits to find out if our story is any good. But do crits really tell us? All they tell us is what a handful of people think, after all.

I think critting is useful because it helps us to see our work more objectively. That's a hard thing to do when you're stuck in your little garret scribbling away without another soul for company. The story is part of you; you give birth to it and like your beloved offspring it is too close to your heart to see its faults.

But it's not just what others think of our work that teaches us objectivity. It's what we learn from critting other people's work. That is ultimately more valuable because spotting someone else's flaws is always easier and teaches us to better spot our own. And ultimately that is what we need to do to become professional writers. We need to see our own flaws and fix them.

1 comment:

Lori said...

I didn't use to believe in critique either and even now I am not that sure. I think it might be helpful to strengthen the writing if you are a believer in writing by the book, and is also a good way of getting some detailed editing done (spot word repetitions, discrepancies, maybe small grammar errors and stuff). You are very right that the reverse side is valid too: we brush up on our editing skills by using them on other people's work.

I think it is just about editing, and it would never help making a book good from bad. This is how the publishing houses can do nowadays with less editors, you know?

It can also be a way of getting encouragement from your peers, I think. That is important when most of us, writers are neurotic wrecks. That is if the peers care to encourage you.