Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is Bigger Always Better?

I've excused myself from critiquing this week as I've been critiquing more than writing, and this week is getting strained with obligations as it is. I've followed only the bare minimum of blogs. But I found a good blog post you writers should read (especially those in my writing groups, you know who you are!)

Author Jennifer Hubbard (writerjenn) posted an interesting blog on how much materials you should have fellow group members critique. Interesting, because I've had the same concerns: if you send only a few pages, you end up focusing on things like grammar and sentence structure, and if you look at the entire project you focus on large scope issues like plotting and character development and pacing.

She also points out that she never exchanges rough copies. She makes sure she has thoroughly edited and reviewed the work.

I think these are two entirely different kinds of critiques. If the first three chapters are wandering and hard to get into, if they are vague or the characters are unlikeable, if the conflict is not even hinted at, don't you want to know this before you write 250 more pages? If the tense or point of view doesn't work, don't you want to know this early on?

And yet, I think maybe the whole manuscript thing is important also. Chapters may be brilliant on their own, but not fit together as a whole. Pacing of a scene may work well, but not in context. It important that characters develop over the course of the work, that subplots intertwine with the main plot. Symbolism should be carried through. Themes developed.

But the thought of all these great writers I know sending me 300 pages of brilliant writing??? I'm feeling faint and overwhelmed at the suggestion!

And yet... intrigued. What think you?


  1. ;) I know ... take a holiday, and I'll send you my 300. Plus some German chocolate.

    But seriously, I really like that the chapters get read but I'd really like a full go-through. Luckily I've got a couple (suckers) beta readers that are goig through it now.

    Thanks for the link, BTW ... I am gonna go over and check it out nao.

  2. It is a mild dilemma.

    My biggest problem is that I'm using critiques - from 3 groups! - to procrastinate on my new book.

    Ah well. Weekend coming up. I love it all, writing, reading, critiquing. All good.

  3. Jen - The more I think about it the more I think both are necessary. Do you think it's better to have two different groups to read - one for short and one for the whole - or the same people reading both - if they are saintly enough to do it....which, by the way, I am! :)

  4. Heidi -

    I have no idea how you are doing three groups! The work itself for one, but all the different opinions must get overwhelming!

    If everyone seems to agree on something, it's a great indication it need to be changed. But if you get lots of different ones, then you have to sift through them, and eventually go with your gut.

    I've rebutted things others have said, just because I think it's important for a writer to know that just because one person thinks something doesn't work doesn't mean everyone thinks that way. As the writer, you own the writing. It is always your choice to take the critiques or not.

    I agree... the entire journey is a thrill. I am so glad I started it, and found you all in the process.

  5. This is an interesting question. I found a submission in my inbox today and it is pretty long, and I got lost and it will take time for me to critique it.

    The beginning of a book is also tough to critique - you don't know the characters, don't know where its headed. As someone said about my submission, something about a character needing to engage in banter. I know, as the writer, now is not the time for this character to do that. He's new, unfamiliar, and wouldn't do that based on his personality. But the guy critiquing it doesn't know that. You're right, as a writer, you have to know what to take, what to leave. When you need to go with your gut.

    I'll head over now and check out the blog.