The Value of Critique

© 2010 Tracy Crump

Before my first writers’ conference, I took advantage of an opportunity to submit four chapters or articles for critique. Upon arrival, I eagerly opened the critiques awaiting me. Three, done by busy editors, offered little comment and even less encouragement. But the last was done by seasoned writer Lee Warren.

Red ink covered my book chapter. Lee slashed the first two and a half pages, calling it backstory. He told me not to double space after periods and circled repetitive words. But at the end, he said, “This is an important story and needs to be told.”

After bleeding-pen shock subsided, I made an appointment with Lee to ask questions and learn all I could. Then I returned home, made the changes he suggested, and saw how much they improved my piece. After that, I was on fire for critique.

Writing is a lonely profession. For many, it’s just “me and my computer.” But as I discovered, we don’t have to go it alone. We can get help. Below are my top three reasons for seeking critique.

Improved writing

You’d be surprised by the number of people who say they want critique when all they really want is affirmation. While good critique should include praise, it’s of no value if that’s all it is. Every  piece can be improved, and everyone has something to learn, whether beginners or pros.

Objective point of view

Weary and cross-eyed, I labor until 2 a.m. to complete my writing project, sure it will strike my readers as profound and eloquent. Oh, brother! Once we become that close to our work, we no longer see it objectively. In the words of one fellow critiquer: “A critique shows us how our writing looks to the reader.”

Increased chance of publication

Editors today are so busy they have little time for editing. With competition fierce, our work must shine. Passing it through a critique group first gives it that extra spit and polish that makes it stand out on an editor’s desk.

Don’t set yourself up for a fall by looking solely for praise. If that’s all you want, send your writing to my husband. He’ll tell you what he always tells me: “That’s great, honey!” But if you want to make a giant leap in your writing, ask for real critique.

Resources:

Below are a few web sites for finding critique groups. The list includes Christian and non-Christian groups, as well as online and local. Some groups require a membership fee to join their organization before joining their critique groups. Some online groups are closed to everyone but members; some are open for anyone to read. Remember that once a piece appears online, it has been published. Study carefully to find the right fit for you.

American Christian Fiction Writers: http://www.acfw.com/

Fellowship of Christian Writers: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FCW/ andhttp://www.fellowshipofchristianwriters.org/

FaithWriters: http://www.faithwriters.com/

Christian Writers: http://christianwriters.com/

Kingdom Writers: http://www.angelfire.com/ks/kingwrit/index.html

Heart of America Christian Writers Network: http://www.hacwn.org/

Critique Circle: http://www.critiquecircle.com/

Awesome Writers: http://lists.topica.com/lists/AwesomeWriters

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: http://www.scbwi.org

Children’s Book Insider: http://cbiclubhouse.com/

YA Write: http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/yawrite.shtml

Tracy Crump has published more than 100 articles, devotionals, and short stories in publications such as Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian, Journey, Pray!, ParentLife, and CBN.com. Thirteen of her stories have appeared in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Crump serves as conference faculty for American Christian Writers, Kentucky Christian Writers, and Southeast Christian Writers and moderates an online critique group. She is a 2008 C.L.A.S.S. graduate and was named 2009 Writer of the Year at the Memphis ACW Conference.

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