June 15, 2011

Critiquing and the Conventional Advice

Once upon a time, I had it drummed into my head that  description = sleeping readers.  To avoiding sleeping-reader-syndrome, I mercilessly cut.  Predictably enough, come critique time, I heard over and over that the story needed more description.   

I'd misunderstood the advice.  Meaningless, long-winded description is boring.  Description that leaves clues, enhances the pace, ups stakes, and roots the reader in the setting -- that's good stuff.  If you want some examples of cool critiquing, check out the Real Life Diagnosis posts on Janice Hardy's blog (my favorite one's here).  I'd heard "show, don't tell" a thousand times, but I didn't understand it until I saw Janice pick apart a manuscript.

That's this week's Critique Secret #4: Getting critiqued can improve everything you write by helping interpret the conventional advice.  Without context, conventional advice is often vague at best.  While examples can (and should!) come from lots of reading, there's nothing quite like having someone look at your writing and point out an infodump, or a page that needs some description to make it come to life.  

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