May 9, 2011

Bootcamp and Critiquing

Just finished attending the LDStorymaker conference in Salt Lake.  I was amazed at how large it was -- some five hundred people attended, I'm told -- and it was incredibly well-organized.  Also, in the tradition of LDS events everywhere, delicious food also attended in great abundance (I was pretty thrilled about not needing to go hunt my own lunch -- I never had to miss a panel or workshop).

One of the coolest things about this conference was the "bootcamp" the day before -- five writers, five manuscripts, one published author, and roughly six hours of straight critiquing (well, except for the snack break -- as noted, food was plentiful).  I was fried afterwards, but it was exciting to meet new writers and utilize my brain picking apart the manuscripts.

I'm a huge fan of critiquing.  Learning about writing is great, but I think some things are only learned through critiquing others and yourself.  Kind of like archaeology -- textbooks are nice, but they make more sense once you've been in the field.

In honor of bootcamp, here's some of my favorite links on how to critique and how to receive critiques: 

The Diplomatic Critiquer
Critiquing the Wild Writer
Handling Revisions

Two of these, you've probably realized, come from -- an online critique group.  I have a writing group and other friends to read novels for me, but I run all my short stories through here (they handle novels, too, but I write a lot of short stories).  As the articles above talk about, sometime I get a critique I feel is very off, or is trying to solve a problem in the wrong way, but just as often I have light bulb moments.  The crowd is full of brilliant people, and having twenty or so brilliant people read something takes a story to a level I couldn't with my own eyes.

Oh, and at the conference, I ended up feeling like a Skype salesperson, even though computer-to-computer, it's free.  If you have writer friends scattered about, Skype makes it easy to still have an almost face-to-face writing group -- this is what my group does, and it's fantastic.


  1. I was at the conference this weekend too! It was wonderful. I was sad to miss bootcamp this year; last year's was amazing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on critiquing!

  2. Thanks for dropping by! I enjoyed your post on the conference, too -- all so true. I feel encouraged, I met great people, learned a lot, and I laughed so hard (especially during the Writing Excuses bit) that I pretty much cried. I've been to a handful of conferences, and as a writer, this was one of the best.

  3. Sounds like it was an amazing session! You've sold me. I skipped Bootcamp b/c this was my first conference ever and I didn't want to overwhelm myself, but next year... :) And that is the second or third plug I've heard for so I'll have to check them out. It's a quid pro quo, site, right? You crit for others and they crit for you?

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. The critiquing isn't exactly reciprocal. To have something critiqued, you need a 75% ratio of critiques given to weeks participating -- so if you do three to four critiques a month, you're in good standing (novels count as 1 critique for every 5,000 words, I believe). In the science fiction and fantasy section, it usually takes about three weeks from the time you submit something to the time it pops up in the queue. Right now I'm subbing short stories through it, so I critique 3-4 short stories a month, and generally get about 20 critiques on the story I submit. If I have extra time, I try to crit more because I feel a bit guilty about receiving a mountain of critiques for so little work on my part (and critting is a great learning experience for me, too). Novel critiques have their own rules, but it's all pretty straight-forward and well-laid out on the website.