Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crit Partners: What I have Learned so Far

It's amazing how much I have learned after only one session with my crit partners and crit group.

1) Critting is harder work than it looks. It is always tricky  to tell someone that something is wrong. Particularly if it is done using Track Errors and comments. The secret is in the wording.

2) Critting is good for writers in that they learn from other people's mistakes. Nothing like writing that someone should avoid a certain mistake only to realize that you're doing exactly the same.

3) Getting Critted is good in that it highlights my most atrocious writing habits. No one is immune to this one, but these are some of the ones that get picked out most often...

  • Characters appearing with zero introduction. I have this way of assuming that people already know who is who. I got one crit partner lost completely because of this and my next habit.
  • Too few (believe it or not) tags. Attributing the actions of one party while the other was the one who was speaking... Yeah... Lots of work in dialogue here...
  • Word and phrase repetitions. While I have no love for one particular word or phrase, some of them pop up in the same paragraph or close enough to each other that the reader is annoyed.
There are many more that have been pointed out, but I decided to only include the ones that all of my CPs agreed on.

So... what nasty habits have you picked up in your writing?

28 comments:

Jen Chandler said...

You're right! Critiquing someone's work IS harder than it seems. You want to let them know where something needs more work but you want to do it in a way that doesn't seem bashing.

I have a terrible habit of word/phrase repetition! When I started my most recent revision, I noticed I really liked for my characters to sigh. A LOT! Gotta have them do something else to express their discontent!

~Jen

Jessica Bell said...

I've noticed that I use too many tags without linked action! Which can get a little annoying. :O)

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

After critiquing for someone else, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to read anything else without looking for faults. But, to make it worse, I never see my own.

Judy Croome said...

Crit groups that work well together are a marvellous boon to writers. I've been in a small crit group since 2003 and we've learned so much from each other. One of our ladies was published last year by a major US publisher, so great excitement. My worst writing habit is a lack of detail. I hate detail and love the big picture, so my crit partners keep me firmly grounded in the minutia of description.
Judy (South Africa)

Stephanie Faris said...

Definitely repetition. I think we're all guilty of that, though, from time to time. I also am working on making my characters different from one book to the next.

Michael Offutt said...

Personally, I really like an honest review of my work. It's the best policy in my opinion.

SM Schmidt said...

I was surprised the first time another writer critiqued my work compared to the editor and friends/family I'd previously used. The level of insight is really invaluable. They pointed out cliches in the genre, voice changes, pet words and other things I would have missed without another writer in the trenches.

I found out I love adjectives and adverbs more than I originally thought. But that's okay, the delete key will save my writing.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Critiquing is indeed hard work, but it also makes us more aware of the mistakes we are prone to make, when we critique someone else's work. My weakness is the overuse of the passive voice.

Jolene Perry said...

I forget to put in enough internal. I'm getting better though.

I LOVE critiquing other people's stuff, my writing is always stronger for it.

Cherie Reich said...

It's very hard critiquing someone's work, but you learn a lot through it and having your own work critiqued. I used to use "as" a lot. I didn't really realize it until I had an editor point it out. Now, I see it in other people's writing and my own. When a CP or editor caught something, it made me aware of it. Now I can catch it in my own writing and others. It makes the writing stronger.

The Golden Eagle said...

I often repeat words and phrases, too, especially if I'm editing something; sometimes I'll unconsciously insert part of what I read above or below, for some reason.

Nate Wilson said...

My nasty habits? Too much exposition, an unnatural fondness for looking/glancing/peering, and an over-abundance of the exclamation "By criminy!"

Okay, maybe not that last one.

Happy critting!

Clarissa Draper said...

My crit partners always complain that I don't have enough description, that my sentences are weak and that I use too many weak verbs.

Hart Johnson said...

I think I definitely learn the most from critiquing others, though my last round my crit partner has a formal editing history, so she taught me some stuff, too. It is definitely how I learn most--the give and take--far better than reading a book.

Raquel Byrnes said...

It was hard for me to separate preference from actual problems in the manuscript I was critiquing. Once I got past that, it got easier to leave remarks. Stopping by from the crusade to follow and say "Hi!"
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Happily Cheesy said...

I need a close circle of critiquers...one day. When I'm ready--when I don't have this blasted musical hanging over my head.

I've X-ed "was" almost entirely (thanks to critiques) and non-hook-ish openings.

Shelley Sly said...

Ah, critique partners are so valuable. You're right; you learn so much not only from their critiques on your work, but from what you notice about their work and apply to your own. Glad you've found a great group!

Erin Kane Spock said...

Gerunds. Annoying though they are, I tend to use them a lot. When I catch it, I fix it most of the time, but sometimes they help with flow. I also use 'quite' quite a bit. And my characters sigh a lot.
I would be lost without my critique partner.

Jessica Lei said...

I've definitely got some bad habits :) And I learned them all from my critique partners, for sure!

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Too many to list here. My biggest one though would have to be character voice/temperament. It's hard for me to pin down each character uniquely at times.

Cowboy Joe said...

I have been trying to help a fellow blogger by going through her WiP. The first time through all I was doing was fixing punctuation and minor grammatical errors. She has since asked me to try to fix some of the above by making suggestions on depth of characters, plot issues etc. But that makes me pretty nervous as we have different writing styles.

Sari Webb said...

I love my critique partner. She is so good at picking up on things I know aren't working but can't figure out why.

I think the key to giving advice without it sounding harsh is not using the word 'you'. Rather than saying 'you should change this' it would probably come across better as 'this sentence would benefit from..' or similar. Also, making a point of picking out what you think works, not just what's wrong.

Good post!

Cally Jackson said...

Critiquing groups are fantastic. I'm part of a group that has been meeting once a month for a number of years now, and critiquing has really helped us all improve as writers.

I agree with Sari's comments about focusing on the work itself rather than the person, and pointing out what's working. I've found this feedback just as useful as what's not working at times, because otherwise you're not sure if something's good or if the other bits were ust worse and that's why people focused on those!

My worst writing habit? Starting scenes with people waking up or ending them with someone going to sleep. Not very original! Choosing when to start and end each chapter can be just as important as when to start and end the book itself!

caterpillar said...

I have got the problem with word repetition....the same set of words, or phrases keep coming up in my writings....it's like when I sit down to write, I have a brain freeze and cannot find alternate words...

Tony Benson said...

Interesting post. I've seen published books on sale in which I wonder whether the author ever got their work critiqued. That highlights for me the importance of taking well thought out feedback and acting on it - note to self!

Misha said...

Hi Jen, my characters sigh too... But it might be because they work on each other's nerves. ;-)

It's a good that you caught that habit, Jessica. :-)

Haha Blogger, that happens to me too, but it's been happening since before I started with critiques. I just pay too much attention to the craft now. :-)

I'm so happy for your crit group, Judy. We share a writing habit, although I am painfully aware of it when I write. I am getting to the details in the rewrite, though... :-)

Stephanie, I think that it's great that you're working to differentiate your characters between stories. I hate when I read books by an author only to realize that the characters have been recycled. >_<

Misha said...

I agree 100% with you Michael. That's why I asked complete strangers to crit my far from perfect book. :-)

The same happened with me, Schmidty. I think my family are just too familiar with the way I think/write. :-)

Rachna, to my surprise, my passive voice issues are a lot less significant than they were in the rough draft... Good thing too. ;-)

Jolene, I am the opposite. I have to concentrate hard to make sure I don't get so stuck in the characters' heads. :-)

Good point, Cherie, I make use waaaay too many crutch words... Now that it has been pointed out to me, I (hopefully) know what to look for. :-)

Hmmm... Golden, I think I write my repetitions because my mind latches onto words I like. ;-)

Hahaha Nate I do like the odd "peering" between my characters. :-)

Weak verbs are an issue for me too, Clarissa. As is the inability to better contruct clumsy sentences. ;-)

I agree with you there, Hart. Critting is much more educational that reading an already published book. After all, I can't see the mistakes that has been made. I learn better looking at what not to do than by emulation. :-)

Hi Raquel! Thanks for following. :-) I hope that I managed to separate my preferences from the crit.

Haha Crystal, you are a lot braver than me. I always thought about writing a musical, but I'm not brave/insane enough to take it on. Good luck! :-D

Thanks Shelley. :-)

I know what you mean, Erin. Now, I can't imagine what I was thinking to go it alone. :-)

Misha said...

I'm glad that you are getting the advantages offered by crit partners, Jessica. :-)

Jeffrey, I feel your pain. My POVs get muddled despite my best efforts. :-)

Joe, I think I can easily say that my style isn't exactly conventional either, but all my CPs offered some great pieces of advice. How something is written does not have and effect on the depth of character, POV issues and other basic things that make or break the story. I usually read the story and start critting on the re-read whenever I pick up problems that pull me out of the story. It might not be the best way, but I find that it works for me. :-)

Oh my word Sari, I never thought of it, but you're right! Thanks for the tip. :-)

I agree with you there, Cally. Where to start and stop is vitally important, but so difficult to get a feel for. :-)

Caterpillar, I've never gotten stuck trying to find alternatives. (Thank heavens for small mercies.) Thanks for dropping by! :-)

So true, Tony. It's no use for me to spen all this time with critiques only to never use them. :-)