Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Do You Process Your Critiques?

I look forward to getting critiques. Comments from my critique buddies always lead to changes that will make my writing stronger or lead me to think more deeply about my story and characters. Since I only submit a chapter or two to my critique group every three weeks, incorporating their awesome advice can take a while. Some strategies I've tried:

1) I collect critiques on one novel while I'm writing another. I read them, maybe nod my head at things they pointed out that I already kind of knew, then store them until I'm ready to revise the novel.

This approach has its advantages: I see the work with fresh eyes when I come back to it, and the disappointment of hearing about what doesn't work isn't so strong. I can also see if there are some common elements to the critiques across chapters, e.g. The main character doesn't show enough emotion. On the downside, if I have questions, it's difficult to go back to my crit buddy and say, "Hey, remember a few months ago when you wrote..."

2) I make revisions as I get my critiques.

Thinking about the critiques right away helps me focus on each chapter and how it fits into the story. Since changes early in the story affect what comes later, I don't waste too much time working on later chapters that will undoubtedly change after they are critiqued.

But there are some disadvantages, too. It's hard to work on another novel when I'm intensely involved in revisions. Also, I worry that this approach can be hard on my critique group. I can't stop myself from revising sections that they haven't read yet to go with the changes in the earlier sections. Then I need explanatory notes with each chapter submission to explain how I've changed the beginning so that they aren't lost when they read the next chapter.

What do you do with your critiques? Do you read and make changes immediately, or do you wait?


  1. I revise immediately. But then again, I'm a very impatient kind of girl. LOL Yes, it's annoying to have to write explanatory notes but I'm one of those writers who can't stand to move on until I'm happy with a section. I find that having a strong foundation and revising along the way saves on having to do huge overhauls later on. It makes for slow going but I'm beginning to embrace that it's just my process.

  2. Car, I agree with you that it's important to get the beginning right. Changes to the beginning tend to change everything else!

  3. I read the whole submission, mull over the complex changes, like re-work portions of the plot or delete/alter a character. Then I decide what I think works and do the changes I agree with. If something nags at me later, something I didn't think I should change often gets changed.

    On more finished drafts, I really appreciate those readers catching the it's/its or right/write kind of errors. For some reason I'm prone to making a lot of those and never seeing them. :-(


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