cj Sez: One of my writing partners once had to leave a long-time relationship with a critique group because one member took a personal dislike to her and made the meetings miserable.
Not a nice thing, and certainly one no writer should have to experience. The fact is, finding a compatible critique group is almost as hard as finding a spouse (okay, maybe not THAT hard).
I know my manuscripts aren't going to please everyone, but what I hope to get out of each meeting are objective comments. I also know that may not happen 100 percent of the time, and that means I analyze critiques of my work on a bell curve.
The comments that fall at either end of the bell curve (Junk on the left end — Raving Marvelous on the right end) carry less weight and can be generally discarded, after I digest them, of course. Sometimes I find a nugget in there that says maybe I should tweak a line or two or three. The critiques I really look at, however, are those that cluster in the middle. This is where the comments seem to focus on the same thing. Sometimes they're positive (ooh, love those comments). More often they point to something that needs a good edit.
I've also found that the level of experience of the author/critiquer/reader is important to how I analyze the critique. Someone, doesn’t have to be an author, who reads a lot in my genre may make exactly the comments I need to hear . . . because s/he could be rendering the opinion of an on-the-library-shelf browser. That browser is the person I want to reach and entertain. I've been fortunate to have found two critiquers of that caliber. They were very helpful.
I’ve also encountered writers who try to squash everything into her/his voice and rules. A bit pedantic, perhaps, but could be helpful in the long run.
Yep, the bell curve works for me, even though negative critiques can sometimes get my goat before I discard them. I've learned that writers have to keep an open mind and be thick-skinned in order to keep writing.
In other news:
Smashwords conducted a survey which they described as "We're looking to identify potential data driven insights that can help authors and publisher make their books more accessible, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers." You can read more about their results and analyses here: **
(**This caveat from James Jackson, immediate past president of the Guppies, the Sisters in Crime online organization: “Because Smashworks best sellers and total volume are so skewed to Romance (especially relative to overall book sales by category), applying much of these results to Mystery/Suspense /Thriller is to make the assumption that our readers react the same way Romance readers do. I'm highly skeptical that those who primarily read Romance make the same kinds of purchasing decisions as those who primarily read Mystery/Suspense/Thriller.”)
Note: The Alabama Writers' Conclave was organized in 1923 and has been in continuing existence since. To find out more, check out their website: http://www.alabamawritersconclave.org/
Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. In the meanwhile, here's a wish for wonderful successes with your work, and I’d love to hear how you deal with the personalities you’ve encountered in your critique groups. You are in one, aren't you?
God Bless the U.S.A. on its 241st birthday July 4.
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