June 8, 2011

Critiquing and Self-Interest

     Maybe I'm biased.  I spent two years reading slush -- reading stories that were brilliant, almost brilliant, and others in need of some tender loving care.  Reading and critiquing buckets of fiction was an amazing education.  Consequently, I continue to read and critique fiction (I think I actually read more unpublished fiction than not).  Here's why:

  1. Critiquing showed me common pitfalls to avoid.  If I read something and wrinkled my nose, I knew I didn't want to duplicate that.  Some of the pet peeves I hear agents and authors talk about make perfect sense after reading so many stories (reflective surfaces for description, anyone?).
  2. Critiquing showed me my strengths.  Some aspects of writing came easy to me, others didn't.  When I read only published works, I'd assume that everyone found X easy, and that the fact I struggled with Y wasn't normal.  Truth is, all writers seem to come to this with strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Critiquing showed me my weaknesses.  On the flip side, if I read something with lyrical description, I'd pause and think Wow, I need to learn how to do that.  Discovering what works and what doesn't in a manuscript gave me ideas on how to improve my own writing.

      Which brings us to Critique Secret #3: Critiquing others is really a self-interested endeavor.  It helps you, too.  If you don't have a slush pile to volunteer at, sign up for Critters.  Every week, you'll have the opportunity to critique a number of stories, help others out, and strengthen your own writing skills.

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