Well, once again I’ve been racing to finish critiquing 10 different pieces of writing from the critters.org workshop queue, to earn the award that’s given out every week for “Most Productive Critter.” I like to shoot for an MPC every so often, mostly because the prize is a pass to go directly to the front of the queue of submitted stories, which can come in handy. The usual wait to get something critiqued on critters.org is a month, and I often get impatient when I have something new that I want to get feedback on.
The last time I earned an MPC, I kept the pass in my pocket for months, until I actually used it to see what the critters thought of the opening to “The Gnomes are Missing.” I actually haven’t really gone through all the critiques I got for ‘Gnomes’ yet, but they’re sitting in my gmail, and then I immediately sent ‘Time Bubble Trap’ through to be critiqued. TBT is going to be sent out Wednesday of this week.
And if I get a new MPC this week, I’m going to use it to get the new revision of “Storm Mirror” out next week – so I’ll have critters feedback on all three pieces I’ve been thinking of for workshop applications. Whoo-hoo!
Getting critiques of your own writing is obviously a good way to improve it, but I’ve found that critiquing other writers via critters has also helped me learn a lot. I’ve sortuv developed a sort of a pattern, which helps when I’m trying to get lots of critiques done quickly but still make them as helpful as possible to the authors:
- Read through the story or excerpt, making notes about anything that occurs to me but trying to look at the big picture, not the nits. (Kindle is great for reading to critique!)
- Thank the author for sending their piece in to be critiqued and say that I hope I can give them good feedback. (If so moved, mention how much I enjoyed reading!)
- Begin with a big-picture recap of what I thought the story was about, what was going on in the plot, etcetera. I know how valuable this can be when I’m reading critiques of my own work – either to see that someone else got what I was trying to say, or when they absorbed something that didn’t exactly match up to my intent.
- Talk about what I really enjoyed, in general terms.
- Talk about any large-scale issues or problems I noticed.
- Mention before starting the notes I took while reading that not everything I’m commenting on is a problem to be fixed. I make notes about things I like or just questions that are passing through my mind as I read – and some of the questions are probably the questions that the author wants readers to be thinking of.
- Include the line notes, along with some context for each one so that the author knows what point in the story I’m talking about.
- Again mention that I hope my feedback is useful, and wish them luck. Sometimes I’ll mention that my opinion should be taken as just one person’s thoughts, or invite them to get in touch with me for follow-up questions.
None of this is revolutionary I’m sure, but I think it makes a pretty good recipe for an internet critique. Do you handle them any differently?