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.

Writers reading

A while ago, I read a post on how a person’s reading changes after they become a writer.  The post said that being a writer has almost ruined their ability to read a good book.  Instead of simply reading the book and enjoying it, all the sudden they were breaking down how the scene was constructed, word choice, and style.  It took them out of the story.

I thought that had to be an exaggeration.  We’ve been reading for decades, why would that change just because we started writing?

Well, I thought it was an exaggeration until it happened to me.

I was at work and heading to lunch by myself.  I decided that I should swing by the convenience store and seeing if they had any good books on the rack.  This was a little out of the ordinary, it’s been a while since I’d bought a paperback, I do most of my reading on my Kindle these days, but wanted something to read while I was at lunch.

ash s

So, I picked up James Hebert’s “Ash”.  I wasn’t familiar with his work but it looked interesting and figured it would be worth checking.

I got my plate of Chinese food, sat down, and cracked the book.  Then something strange happened, I started analyzing every sentence.  I couldn’t help it.   Sentence structure, word choice, etc.

Wow, that’s a great way to incorporate dialogue in the scene.  That’s an interesting character description.  Ooh, he’s good at switching between scenes.  These chapter lengths are interesting.  Hmmm, he uses a lot of adverbs.

It was really interesting.  Having read a lot of ebooks recently with questionable… quality, it was educational to open a book that has been so thoroughly vetted, edited, and produced.  I don’t think I’ve read any major books since I started really writing.  I real a ton but mostly on my kindle and usually indie authors, so this was a total change.  So, seeing something professionally produced was a drastic reminded of what a high quality book should look like.