Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bravo! Bravo!

I'll keep repeating myself until someone slaps me: You are an AWESOME group of authors!

Kudos to Ali for her bravery (and humility -- because you all know how humbling it is to throw your work out there to the critical masses), and kudos to each one of you for taking the time to share thoughtful, kind, honest, helpful feedback.

If you haven't had a chance to critique Ali's chapter yet, feel free to do so.

And while we're in this state of fuzzy crit-bliss, here's some food for thought thrown out to me by Disorderly (who refuses to be the president of the Authoress Fan Club -- can you believe it?): What makes an effective crit group/partner?

Because, honestly, a weak crit group, or a crit group that's strong but doesn't collectively "get" your work, is worse than no crit group at all. (Kinda like the ever-true adage, "A bad agent is worse than no agent at all." And those of you who have read AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED know that that's true in my life.)

So...what makes a crit partner work for YOU? And why do you think we're having such phenomenal success here on MSFV?

Because it's not me. Sure, I've created this place, and I keep it running. But it's YOU who have created this wonderful atmosphere. YOU are what makes it "work" around here.

Share the secrets of your collective wonderfulness.


  1. What makes an effective crit group/partner?


    Diversity, intelligence, market smarts, humor, tact, and a willingness to open up and take criticism on their own work.

    Also - it helps if people aren't just sponges, who sit there on a throne to soak up all the praise, and retire in high dungeon when people throw squashy vegetables instead.

    More importantly - it HELPS when people practice what they preach in their own work.

    It helps if they crit you as both a reader and a fellow writer. Honestly sharing their impressions as an active genre reader, and also offering technical suggestions as a fellow writer.

    *snickers* which reminds me of that passage from Pride and Prejudice...


    E. You expect much in a woman.

    D. Yep.

    E. I've never seen such a woman. She doesn't exist!

    *replace woman with critter

  2. Sponge, it's just completely weird that you mentioned P&P at the end of your comment, because I was thinking of it, too, as I read your "retire in high dungeon (sic)" phrase.

    It's actually "high dudgeon." But I knew what you meant. :D

    It's a Lydia line, in reference to Mr. Collins following Lizzy's refusal:

    "Take him away and feed him, for he's been in high dudgeon all morning."

  3. I have a question for the critters of Ali's piece.

    In the crits, Anonymous said: You start with a dangling phrase, before going on to subject, verb and clause. Tecnhinally, this is fine (they're not dangling modifiers because your subject is mentioned straight after the comma), but stylistically, I found that it began to grate. A lot of writing guides / literary people recommend avoiding dangling phrases, wherever possible; many think it's weak writing.

    One other person made a similar reference.

    My question is: Does this include starting a sentence with a gerund clause? (e.g. Sitting on the fence, her butt started to hurt. OK, that's a bad example, but you know what I mean.)

    And do you, as writers, find starting a sentence like this weak or irritating?

    I ask because I've read novels where nearly ever sentence begins with a pronoun/noun, and it gets repetitive and tiring. I've also read writing books that encourage the use of using several different parts of speech (e.g. gerund clauses, prepositions) to start sentences to avoid the noun/pronoun repetition.

    I don't mean to hijack your blog, Authoress, but this question has been bugging me since I read these comments.


  4. Note to self: Read comment through before pressing "Send comment."

    ...use of using...

    *face heats with embarrassment*

    Yeah, I'm a writer.

  5. Wow! 38 crits.

    I'm sooo glad i didn't get picked. After reading Ali's great work, I realize my writing isn't up to par yet. I'll just keep merrily critting from the sidelines, thank you. :$

    I've never joined any kind of critting group or partnership before so I couldn't say what makes for a successful one. I'd imagine I'd have to find one the fits my genre first and foremost.

    I think the reason why MSFV is successful is that balance between trying to improve your work (regular crit rounds,) trying to get your work published (secret agents,) and the feeling that no matter where you are on that spectrum we all share the same goal and are all here on the same journey of becoming better writers.

    And yes, Authoress, your presence and general positive interaction makes a big difference.

  6. Kat:

    When one style (be it the gerund clasue start or the pronoun start) occurs in great frequency, so great that I start picking up on it, I do find it bothersome.

    I don't think the style itself is weak, just the lack of variation.

    Variations on sentence structure keep it fresh.

  7. An effective crit group/partner provides constructive, yet honest criticism, encouragement.

    An effective crit group has members who can accept criticism as well as they can give it.

    An effective crit group has members who aren't afraid to ask questions without feeling like an idiot. (Mostly because I don't want to feel alone when I become paranoid about my own bad writing habits.)

    You've provided an excellent environment for that here, Authoress. You're doing the literary world a huge favor by hosting this blog!

    Yay! for you.

  8. An ideal crit group is a group of writers that are equal or greater in talent and more knowledgeable about grammatical rules than yourself.

    That's my opinion anyway!

    :) Terri

  9. An effective crit group/partner?

    Well, from my experience, before I joined CC (critique circle), I handed out my manuscript to everybody willing to read it. What did I get back?

    Some really bad advice
    Some really good advice
    Some really vague advice
    And no advice on the writing itself. Everybody commented on the plot, and that was it.

    Since I've joined a crit group, I've received:

    Some really good advice
    Some really vague advice
    And lots of advice on the writing itself.

    Which is exactly what I want. Except the vague advice. I can do with out, "Oh, it's good, keep going." Give me something to grow from! There's always room for improvement.

    You're doing a great job here, everybody! From what I've seen, all the advice given here is helpful in some way or another.

  10. A good crit group is diverse. Everyone has his own strengths when it comes to critting. Some do a good job finding plot issues or character inconsistencies, others are better with style, still others, grammar.

    You want people who participate and strive to improve both their writing and critting. And people willing to take what helps and overlook the rest.

    It also helps to have someone who likes your stuff...LOL. Positive feedback is as valuable as critical. Afterall, we all like to hear we did something right.

    This group is all of the above. Kudos to everyone for being so willing to give of your knowledge.


  11. Fun critique session, Authoress!

    I think what makes a good crit partner/group is honesty.

    You need to have honest feedback if something is working or not. Praise and "I like it!" comments are nice and feel good, but they generally aren't going to help improve something that needs work.

    Personally I don't care if people phrase their comments to me constructively or politely, as long as they are honest. ;) But I think tact is helpful a lot of the time.

    Finding a group of a few people who "click" with you is also important.

    I'm not sure how to explain what or how that works ;) (maybe it's like personal relationships) but at some point if you're going to be in a long-term critting relationship with someone, you have to find people who work with you, you with them, etc.

    I actually found one of my closest writing friends (through CC) when we started critiquing each other's novels. Ironically we hated each other's first drafts :P but we clicked--and by the time we'd revised our novels about five times each we both like them quite a bit and have been good friends and crit partners for almost five years. Our styles, writing, and tastes are pretty different but we get along well. :P

    Help figuring out the "why" is also vitally important, along with honesty. You can tell someone their story doesn't work, but you gotta tell them WHY NOT. Is it too many cliched elements with no new twists? Too slow pacing and info-dumping? Is it something else?

    A mix of encouragement and positive feedback is going to be another thing, IMO. I think honesty and finding someone who can and will tell you when something isn't working is going to be a huge help, but also a bit of positive feedback keeps us going. ;)

    1.) honesty
    2.) clickablity
    3.) constructive feedback and positive feedback
    4.) have fun; the critiquing relationships I've been in that have lasted are because we have fun while helping each other learn, grow, and seek publication .

    I'll shut up and move on now. ;) I really should be doing this after I've had some caffine...


  12. I have a couple of crit partners who don't like works in my genre, (and I don't much like theirs either) but they critique writing issues more than storycraft and I find their critiques valuable. However, I admit that I pay more attention to the critique partners I have who like or write in the same genre as me. They get what I'm doing and can attack larger story issues as well as the writing nits. Both kinds are important to me. I have a couple of partners who are so helpful, they not only show me where I got off track, but give me suggestion for general improvement. A committed crit partner is a treasure beyond price so if you have someone who gives you thoughtful, helpful reviews treat them really well.

    As for why this site works so well, I think you have to take the major part of the credit. Something about your honesty, creativity, and brevity attracts those who have lots of great ideas to share but not always lots of time to do it. Thanks to all (but especially to MSFV).


  13. I think everyone's said it already :)

    I like having someone with a sense of humour. Someone who'll tell it to me straight, but will point out the sometimes few strong points of my work. When i'm thin skinned they'll hold my hand until I'm back on my feet. When I'm thick skinned they'll lob out the blows, and I'll meet them head on with a a flamethrower and determination to continue.

    Authoress, this is a great site :)