I belong to an awesome critique group, The Central Phoenix Writers’ Workshop and we meet every Wednesday night at HobNob’s Coffee Shop on McDowell and 3rd Ave. It’s a great group of writers. We have a strong core membership and have recently had an influx of new attendees.
Breaking in new people is always interesting. Some come in as complete newbies with no prior critique experience. That was me a year or so ago. Others come in from other cities with experience from groups there or out of college with experience. All groups are a little different, but we try to do everything we can to help each writer improve.
Last night we had several new attendees. One was in my group. She was young, but had long critiques of each piece read before hers. After listening to her comments, I was expecting something pretty fantastic from her. Needless to say, I was underimpressed. Am I being snarky because she was critical of my piece? I don’t think so, because she actually had some nice things to say about some of my sentences. She was quite young and I think my work shocked her a little. I write historical fiction and this particular chapter included some very graphic dialogue from a murderous cowboy. Another writer presented a piece about a serial killer and her eyes bulged a little there too. Sometimes it can be fun breaking in new people!
We all gave her some ideas about how to improve her POV issues and I hope she will consider them and rewrite her piece. It was cute and could have been very entertaining without the glaring POV issues. I was sitting beside her and saw the page she was reading from. It had been critiqued before and scribbled with notes. She said she’d written it about four years ago and then put it away.
The first pieces I presented were full of problems, but I didn’t come into my first read with long comments about the other writers’ work, either. OK, I’m coming off snarky again. I’m just sayin’, don’t sit at a critique table and tell other writers they should tighten up their work when you didn’t take the time to rewrite the piece you’re presenting when you’ve received critique on it before. Why bother with going to a critique group if you’re not going to take the advise to heart?
The first thing I do after my group is come home, go through my pages and do a rewrite of the chapter, taking into consideration all the comments I’ve received. We don’t have to change everything about the piece. Our content is subjective. Am I going to change the grammar in my dialogue because it’s not proper? No, probably not. People don’t speak with perfect grammar, especially uneducated cowboys and prostitutes. I write using terms and phrases from the 19th Century West. Yes, I’ve researched 19th Century Western slang and profanities. I’m sure the NSA has me on a watch list because of the crap on my search engine. I wouldn’t be a successful researcher if they didn’t. I know the origins of several poisons and the recipe for homemade gunpowder. Who doesn’t? I can also describe several different forms of torture.
What does the dragon have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing!
Until tomorrow: Write On!