Writing Group Blues

I just got home from one of the writing groups I’ve joined.  A couple are based around getting together and just writing, this is the only one that is based on critiquing.

Now, I take critiquing very seriously.  When I was in school I was very fortunate to have a series of really good english and creative writing teachers.  They really pushed me to become a better writer, and almost more importantly to be better at giving and receiving constructive criticism.  There’s almost an art to being able to read through someone’s writing, good or bad, and providing an opinion and suggestions.

When I’m doing a critique I’m reading really slowly, carefully, making notes along the way.  I always come up with a few good points and a few suggestions.  Even if I really like the piece, I always try to come up with at least a couple suggestions.  Whether the writer uses them or not doesn’t matter, it’s about giving them a different perspective.  We have to push each other if we’re going to improve.

Today, I handed out the first five pages of my NaNo project.  It’s rough, I haven’t even given it a second look since writing it I told them all that as a disclaimer.  I sat back and waited for the list of issues to roll in.

Their response, “It’s good.”

I asked if the descriptions were too heaver or too light.  “No, they’re good.”

I asked if it flowed well.  “Flow is good.”

I asked them for any suggestions.  I got one, the transition from the first chapter to the second could be a little better.

That’s it.

Now, I know I’ve improved as a writer but there’s no way I’m that “good”.  No, I think it says a lot more about the quality of the criticism than about the quality of the writing.  That’s disappointing.

4 thoughts on “Writing Group Blues”

  1. That kind of critique drives me batty. That’s why I like scribophile.com so much. You get some really good critiques and you have to critique in return so it’s not just a bunch of waiting on something that doesn’t really happen. You do still get the odd “I really liked this” kind of comment but they don’t earn the poster any kind of reward which means they tend to gives full length critiques instead.

  2. Is this a new group? People still might be finding there way. Some folks like to sit back and get a feel for the different personalities before they are comfortable enough to critique.

    I think also your disclaimer (“I know this is rough”) might have discouraged responses. Why invest time and energy in critiquing a piece the author is probably going to change a zillion times before considering it “finished”?

    I’m not in favor of asking specific questions. Just because I’m hung up on a section of dialogue doesn’t necessarily mean the reader will be hung up on the same parts. I like to hear from them their own responses, rather than bias their perception of the work with my own concerns.

    1. No, the group has been around for a while and they other pieces all got plenty of suggestions. We had one new guy but the other two and me were veterans.

      I gave the disclaimer so that I could explain the type of suggestions I was looking for. I knew the writing itself was rough and hadn’t been edited, I was looking for bigger picture issues. Does it make sense, the style, the overall things.

      Normally I wouldn’t ask questions but when the only response I get is “it’s good” then it doesn’t help me much. I was trying to dig up something, anything useful.

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate the ideas and feedback! 🙂

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