Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Critism

When I divorced my first husband, my oldest son was only two. It was a really scary time for me as a single mother. I was working at a law firm as a receptionist/do-it-all girl. I was bored to death just sitting there socializing with everyone who called and/or came in to the office. It was an incredibly interesting job for attorneys that handled patent/trademark and copyright law. The secretaries loved me because I couldn't stand being bored and would constantly ask for something to do. My previous job as a legal secretary was pretty demanding and I did the same as the paralegals. Of course with the new job they began to notice and took advantage of it. But one of my jobs had been to proofread attorney documents. Talk about intimidating. As my crit partners know...I'm not the grammar guru in our group. LOL. The first time I read through a document the female attorney got really pissy about my finds. She asked me to do it and I only noted what I as a reader could see...The remaining attorneys asked me to start doing the same for them.

As a writer...my work could be read by alot of people, not just in the publishing office hopefully. I've often talked about my crit partners because they are wonderful, talented and creative women. On one of the blogs I visit there was a past post about the feelings we go through when throwing our hard work out for someone else to crit that made me think about reactions. I was a newbie when I started in my current crit group and was scared to death to critique anyone elses work. Sure I've had experience. But not necessarily with novels which are a much different content, maybe structure and format are the same. My first group though, I came across a woman who thought she was being constructive but she was demoralizing. And if someone dare tell her something in her work...she was very defensive and had an excuse for everything found wrong. But to me if it wasn't corrected before she submitted to the group, it's left to be critiqued for several people to find. I know I make more than my fair share of mistakes. But she was quick to point out my lack of experience and I quit soon after. From what I've heard...it's pretty much her and one other now.

So...how do we react when someone does a crit on our work? I try to always immediately thank someone if I'm not totally overwhelmed with crap to do. When I open a document and see lots of blue...I may get frustrated, at myself. I also go through and read all comments and nine out of ten corrections will make an improvement. If I like the way I've done something I may leave it until I hear from several, then I know it's just not going to work. When I'm doing a crit...grammar and technical issues are not my strength. I'm an avid reader though and would like to think my money and buying power speaks as a consumer. I know what I like and if I come across a book I don't care for...I won't buy from that author again. I also know I have eclectic tastes, so I try to focus on each crit I'm doing as seeing what someone else might see. It definitely doesn't hurt my feelings if someone doesn't take my advice. I'm not an editor or agent. But it doesn't hurt my feelings so much either to get crits because I try to be as objective as possible without losing my voice knowing that the crit could actually be a reader in the future looking at it. That's my goal, ya know, to have other people read it.

5 comments:

Chicki said...

Chelle,

We have almost the same work background. Amazing! I found working for lawyers incredibly draining. The majority of them were so "intense" (trying to put it nicely.) :)

When I first joined, I was petrified at the thought of having strangers pick my work apart. It took me a little while to learn how not to get offended. I've learned that if the members of the group are committed writers themselves, they will give honest, fair critiques.

The best critter in our group is the toughest one, and I really value her opinion.

I am an African-American writer who writes for A-A readers, sometimes my crit partners don't understand certain things in my stories, but those are usually just cultural differences. When that happens, I will explain what it means for their benefit, but I won't change it because I know my readers will understand.

Knowing that our work will always be subject to criticism and review, isn't pleasant, but I guess it's to our benefit if we get used to it now so it won't hurt so much when book reviewers print their opinions for the entire world to read!

Erin said...

The first time I submitted my work for someone to read I was scared. This was my baby afterall. But the woman was nice, telling me what was good about my work before she told me what I needed to improve. All of my CP's have been that way. (Thank you ladies.)
I only had one person who seemed to be attacking me and not my m/s in one of my critique groups. I had a hard time getting over her critique, eventually reading between the lines of her written comments. She doesn't critique my work now, nor do I critigue hers.
Somethings are best left alone.

Chelle Sandell said...

Chicki ~ Lawyers are a weird bunch to work for. I did it for 7 years before I went back to school.

I know what you mean about the line and style you write. I write targeted for a specific line because thats what I enjoy reading. Ya know...I like Nora and Carla Neggers too, but I grew up reading Harlequin because my aunt and DAD!

I love our group! My first group was almost enough reason to stop but when I found RAH I lucked out. The girls are positive and supportive without being hurtful. Everyone seems to get along great and flow with each others style of writing. Even when I open a crit and see alot of comments...I don't let it bother me because I use what I think will work and very rarely do I disagree. But so far noone has been negative or evil!

Erin ~ The woman who I had the problem with ran everyone away from the group. I've been so lucky to be with RAH. I think this month I will join RWA and our local chapter to see if I can find someone nearby to work with in addition to our group. Maybe even have someone to plot and attend conferences with.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I've got you all beat with crit comments.

I joined a group last summer and got a crit that said something like, "Your hero is retarded and if this was a real book, I would have thrown it against the wall." Something like that. I forget because it's been awhile, but I almost quit writing.

So I entered that same scene in a contest and finaled!

The woman wasn't a mean woman but we just didn't "click" as crit partners. Obviously. LOL!

You want honesty, but it's how you say it, too.

Chelle Sandell said...

LOL Jennifer...as readers we all have our particulars when it comes to storylines we like and don't. But as cps I've found it's important to leave room for styles and voices. The main thing is whether the story is flowing and I can at least point out little things. I may comment about cultural differences but it's because I'm curious. That's one reason I love reading Zaynah's ms.