Thursday, 22 March 2012

Learning from Critiquing Other People's Work

Do you remember those days in school or college when you had to spend English classes pouring over fantastic work and ripping it apart? Wondering whether the author was depressed just because he happened to mention grey skies or feeling blue? 

That's not the kind of  critiquing I mean. We'll leave that to the teachers and professors. I mean a helpful critique of a fellow author's work. Looking at their book to help them see things they might have missed after the fiftieth edit. If you are a writer, you know what I'm talking about. We've all been there, and found that words blurred into mere black smudges on paper. 

I haven't done a lot of critiquing for other people's book, possibly because I only have one critique partner. More because of lack of time than anything else. But even from my limited experience, I think it's a valuable thing. I guess it's human nature that it's a lot easier to spot mistakes or faults in other people's work than your own. Then there is the matter of outside perspective as well. When it's my story, I know it's inside out, so even a little hint makes the whole scene clear. But when it's someone else's vision, I don't know what it means, and so I need clear words and story line to be able to understand it. 

Critiquing someone else's work helps you think about issues in your own work. Or at least that's how it is for me. If I say to my CP, "too passive", and a day later I find myself writing a passive sentence, I notice it. If I complain that her character is "too whiny", I notice when mine is winging for no good reason. 

What we offer to our critique partners (hopefully) is constructive feedback, and that feedback is constructive for both parties because the more effort and thought you put into reviewing their work, means the more knowledge and skill you build up to edit your own. 

What do you think? Do you feel that your experience with your CPs is mutually beneficial? Does it improve your critiquing skills for your own work?


  1. Most definitely! I also notice that writing craft tips I've just learned are easier to spot in other people's work and helps me "ingest"/understand it better and so then I'm able to see it in my own... If you don't have time to do whole books, an excellent site to critique and get critiques on a chapter by chapter basis is -- I learned so much about writing just critiquing other folks work there (as well as getting ones for mine)

  2. Angela,

    Yes, I would agree with "ingest/understand". I have considered places like critiquecircle before, but I'm personally not comfortable participating in critiques with people I don't know. But thank you for your suggestion.

  3. I stink at it, but, I try to help where I can, using the lessons learned from people who were generous enough to critique my work. It's a lot of work, but, well worth the time and effort

  4. I completely agree that critiquing someone else's work helps me notice the issues with my own. It's hard to see the wood for the trees with one's own writing, but easier with someone else's. I think CPs are invaluable.

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