Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Few, The Mighty

I'm feeling like it's about time to sing the praises of the small but consistent cadre of people who give their time over and over in the form of critiques.

No, I'm not mentioning names.  It's interesting, because these things go in cycles.  I'll see familiar names over and over again, and then things will shift and I'll see new familiar names.  It's as though, as time goes by, this blog is continually supported by a gradually-changing-yet-always-constant group of writers who are truly the lifeblood around here.


Thank you for giving and giving and giving.  Thank you for critiquing others when your own work is not up here.  Thank you for offering help to aspiring authors when you, yourself, are already published.  Thank you for helping aspiring authors when you, yourself, are not published.  Thank you for coming back again and again, giving your time and expertise.  Thank you for not being afraid of saying the wrong thing.  Thank you for making this community a priority, for whatever reason.

Yes, I do notice you.  I do see your screen name in my inbox.  And others notice, too.

You know who you are.

This is a large, growing community.  The number of daily visitors, particularly during contests and critique sessions, far surpasses the number of actual participants.  While this ratio is no big deal on a regular blog post (like this one), since it's normal for more people to read than to comment, it is a big deal when it comes to critiques and contests.

Not so much with the reading-vs.-critiquing.  I know there are a lot of you out there you are uber-beginners, and this blog is a learning tool for you.  I WANT YOU TO BE HERE.  It's okay if you're quiet; it's okay if you haven't taken the critique plunge yet.  One day, when you're ready, you will.

What makes me say "hmm" is the contests and critique sessions in which there are 100 or more entries, yet the comments that the winning entries receive don't reflect this number.  And I'm thinking...if you're willing to enter a contest, are you willing to critique even if your entry doesn't make it in?

Food for thought.  Because, if you're far enough along to be seeking critique, then you're probably far enough along to be giving it.  I do request that all entrants in contests critique a minimum of 5 other entries, which I feel is fair.  Critiquing is time-consuming, and expecting folks to critique 49 excerpts simply because theirs is the 50th would be...inhumane.  And would probably ignite mutiny.

But if you enter and don't get picked?  Please consider offering your critique, anyway.  (And, hey.  Many of you already do this.  I'm just trying to peel the wallflowers from the wall.)

I believe you all have something valuable to share here.  You're writers, yes?  And writers are a wonderful breed.  (Not that I'm biased.)

This blog will continue to thrive in the strength of the few and the mighty.  But imagine what we could become if everyone stepped up.

(Oh, how I love this community!)


  1. I think this is a great post and hope it is taken to heart. I would like to add that the act of reading and offering comment on other people's work does - the more it is done - result in a side benefit of being able to evaluate your own work with a more critical and objective eye. So, it's a win win. I heartily squeak my agreement.

  2. Dear Wallflowers,
    I know it's hard to feel like you have something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation but remember even a simple, "Hey, I really liked [insert thing you liked here] because [reason]" can be immensely helpful to the person you are critiquing. You don't have to be funny or clever or anything but yourself. Because you know what?

    You're pretty awesome.

    Thanks for giving people a place to compete, share and work together Authoress!

  3. Lurker here. I read this blog a lot, including the critique entries, but I've never submitted my own work, nor commented myself (or maybe I have -- but rarely).

    I know for ME part of the reason I haven't critiqued is because often the majority of entries are in genres/categories I don't typically read, like YA. Therefore worry whether I can critique honestly while setting aside personal taste.

    Perhaps this post will nudge me to actually give it a go, though. I'm a believer in karma :)

  4. I agree, critique helps everyone grow - the giver and the recipient. But what happens is that let's say a contest goes up at 9:00 am. Everyone on the East Coast who has the time and the inclination puts in their cents. Then the ones on the West Coast wake up or come home from work and are faced with 15 or 20 comments per piece. It's hard to then add something new. So then the latecomers have to either say 'I agree with everything' or try to pick up on something unique, which might make an excerpt seem as if it has more wrong with it than it does. Having said that, I think about 15-20 comments per piece is pretty great. 3-5 is kind of sad. I try to get to the ones who have the least comments.

  5. Emilya -- I see your point. However, I don't think the best approach to critique is to first read the other comments. It's better, in my opinion, to read the excerpt and leave your critique WITHOUT seeing what everyone else has said. There are 2 reasons for this:

    1. You want to make sure your comments are completely your own, and not influenced by what others are saying.

    2. Even if 20 people say the same thing, this is VERY HELPFUL to the author. If lots of people are saying the same thing, it's an excellent marker for what really needs work. (The same thing is true for agent and editor responses; you look for trends.)

    Just my 2 cents. :)

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  7. So well-said and inspiring, Authoress! I am new to this site, but have benefitted so enormously my first-time out from this group of intelligent and generous critiquers that I am determined to give back in the same way. A heartfelt thank you from this late-comer to your wonderful party!

  8. I really like what you wrote here. We often learn more from critiquing than being critiqued, and it'a always fun to see others' work.

  9. I always find I learn so much from reading other peoples' work, and enjoy critiquing. And of course, I've received so many wonderfully helpful critiques here too...

  10. "But imagine what we could become if everyone stepped up."

    I think that about a lot of things! Very inspirational post. Right on, Ms.A!

  11. Excellent post! The most comments I've ever garnered was on the First Line Grabber contest. I had over 50 comments!!! But, since it was just one sentence they were critiquing, some of the same comment was said often.

    I agree with you, Authoress, about leaving our own comment before reading the other comments. Especially when voting yea or nay on something, because you might feel somewhat on the fence but if others are all gung-ho on it, or vice versa, someone's vote might be swayed.

    I wonder if there was a "Like" button that people could click on an existing comment, if there would be more lurkers making some noise.

    I'll second the notion that those up for critique crave input. So don't be shy. Speak up!

  12. This is good to read. I'm not at a place yet in my current WIP to submit anything for critique, and sometimes I wondered if I should be critiquing so much of other people's work if I haven't contributed. I guess I viewed it in the complete opposite way!

    I like the idea of commenting on a piece without reading the other comments. I try to read through the piece first without my editing hat to get a feel for the story, and ones that I think I can comment helpfully on I will go back through. I've learned a lot from reading other comments, I think it's helped me overall when I'm providing feedback in my writer's group.

  13. I must confess, I am one of these people who do not comment when my entry is not chosen. But after reading this post, I realize that we are here to help each other, even if we are not participating in a particular contest.

    Writing women's fiction, I feel like a small fish (compared to the uber-popularity of YA). My entry didn't make it into the last contest and the next one does not include adult genres (boo hoo, right?).

    But I have received lists if comments from other writers and those comments have helped me tremendously through this process.

    I hereby pledge to go above and beyond to give my $.02 worth, even if I don't have an entry. Thank you, authoress, for this post.

  14. I was activeish when your blog first started up. I wasn't at a point to submit, but I did try to leave crits on the various drop-the-needles and contests and whatnot.

    Then my writing was more or less derailed for a long time (3 years with activity for NaNoWriMo), and I switched to lurker-only status. But I've really enjoyed seeing your community grow, and now that I'm back on the writing horse, I hope my own involvement will increase, too. Even as I'm still working on getting stuff submittable. Thanks for the environment you've created here!