It is not often that I will talk about someone’s writing. I have always focused on the message that came across and less of how the words and punctuation were used. This was challenged a couple of times and I see now the benefit to a constructive critique.
The first challenge was during my time judging a creative writing competition at the Whiteside County 4-H. Kids signed up and submitted works to be judged. The best works have a chance to compete at state. There are also ribbons for the best presentation. There were five entries, three of them were short stories.
One of the writers had completely blown me away with her skill. It was on par with other writers who publish young adult works. I see a bright future with her and was happy to see how she progressed. The dilemma I spoke of was this, she was already past the point of encouraging words. Her work could use a full critique. I talked with another judge and she had encouraged me to point out the bad with the good on this one.
I did, and I hope that it pushes her. I offered up great words of encouragement and pointed out specific examples. The glaring weakness I saw was also pointed out and offered up suggestions to improve it.
My next example was during my Write On writer’s group meeting. The leader of the group had requested that we do add more notes to what we read during the constructive critique nights. It is not in me to feel like I might be stepping over lines with other writers. The group agreed and I might have to activate the inner editor in me for the next meeting.
I would typically make notes about the message the writer was trying to get across. The theme was also a big one with me. I had just recently started pointing out word usage and offering suggestions. I realize I am not the best with the English language. Commas are my enemies, I feel. There are parts of writing I avoid just so that I won’t get it wrong.
This will likely be another turning point in my writing. What I have to offer to other writers and the community itself is promising but also scary. I guess it is somewhat of a fear. Here is to me facing that. How have you coped with facing such dilemmas?
As a member of WriteOn, I understand what you are saying. I used to note incorrect word usage, punctuation problems, and questions when I didn’t understand why a passage had been added, etc. But when I received copies of my stories from other members of the group, there were seldom any comments, or just general comments about how the reader had liked the story. So I stopped making all my notations, and just started writing general, positive notes. But that’s not helpful to the writer. We will only improve by having real critiques, and/or being given a chance to defend our reasoning with a phrase, etc.
Critiques shouldn’t be unkind, they should be helpful.