Thursday, October 13, 2011

Critique Conspiracies: Hurts so Good

With All Hallow's Eve being just around the corner, it seems fitting to play on a ‘pain is pleasure’ theme for starters today. For instance, why in anyone’s right mind would they want to be scared? Yet plenty of movie-goers will crowd the box office for an edgy supernatural thriller. I can’t articulate why I like creepy films, but I do. I can, however, explain why a writer could get her fix from something as painful as a bloody critique. Squatters and the upside of bad feedback are the haunt of today’s installment, the finale of the series.

This may be hard to believe considering how much I bashed know-it-alls, but I deem the squatter to be worse than the former. This evil spirit squats for a few minutes in your critique group (CG) and sucks feedback out of you for its work, but doesn’t stick around to offer reciprocation. Legend has it that these ghouls were decent people before they were bitten by attorneys.

Good news though, the squatter is a rare creature. Hardly ever seen. Kind of like Bigfoot. In ten years of stalking CGs, I’ve only spotted two squatters…but, of course, I failed to get a clear snapshot. Anyway, if you do encounter this beast (and they must feed on you several times, not just once…if it’s a one-time thing, they’re just average folks at the mercy of 21st century time constraints) then urge the CG leader to contact a priest to exercise the monster.

Sashaying into the grand finale…

Dean Miller, The Rock’s own Pat Stoltey, and other readers of our blog commented to the effect that bad advice from a critique group (CG) can be constructive. I don’t want to risk misquoting our friends, so feel free to check their opinions in previous comments of Critique Conspiracies. But I wholeheartedly agree with them and would like to expound.

In the introduction to this series, I wrote: “If you asked someone to read your stuff, you got to face the music. Never complain. This is especially true if you’re in a group, yet there’s one member who you can’t stand. Keep your mouth clamped to this person. The fact is the bombasts from this brutal critic of yours will serve as the most valuable lessons you’ll get from a critique group.”

The reason a scathing criticism from a CG member offers so much value is: it conditions you for the big leagues.

Think about this: there are bloggers out there who will attack artists just to lure readers. When your novel enters the bloodstream of mass media, it will get pummeled one way or another. To that loud mouth who unreasonably shreds your few pages in the CG one night, learn to grin at her as if you’re about to burst out laughing. Never give dark forces the satisfaction of thinking you’re afraid.

One last tip. When you start getting this CG and writing thing down—if you haven’t already, you’ll need to seek faster feedback and streamline the way in which get it. Fact is, even if the critiques for your work are mostly favorable, it’ll take forever to finish a manuscript if you submit a few pages at a time to a CG. Use the CG to find some soul mates who will read your entire novel. Not only is this faster, but they’ll be able to lock into the POV and get an overall better feel for the novel.

Happy Halloween!

The ever opinionated E.C. Stacy

1 comment:

Patricia Stoltey said...

Wow, I'm catching up on blog post reading and find my name. Thanks for the mention. And yes, as a staunch supporter of critique groups, I know the value of an unfavorable critique as well as those that are just plain mean. If you want to put a book out there for online reviewers and big 4 reviewers, you better be prepared to take the bitter with the sweet. It ain't all roses. Tough critiques prepare us for the worst.