Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Do You Handle a Critique? OR Here, Take My Bunny!

I only want to help! Here, take my bunny!

So, today, on the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog, I'm a Mentoring Author giving my take on five queries. All of these queries are good in their own right. It's so hard for me to give advice! I know my own query wasn't perfect, that's for sure! I want to be helpful, but I always worry what if my advice or critique puts someone on the wrong path?? Gah! I'd feel so bad! I suppose that's the risk you take though and I have mad respect (yes, I wrote "mad respect", sad, I know) for those who do!

I've never been a member of a critique group. I'm hard enough on myself! Errr...what is a Beta anyway? Still don't know, other than it's the second letter in the Greek alphabet. For those of you who are or have been in a critique group how do you handle the critiques? What do you do if someone is really rough on you--shreds your work into itty bitty throbbing pieces of pulp or what if everyone in the group has the same opinion of your MS and you completely don't agree with it? How do you respond?

xoxo -- Hilary

15 comments:

  1. It can be tough, I think. But I always try to give kind, but helpful feedback. I try to highlight some good as well as what I think needs some work. But you can do it! You've written a fabulous book, so now worries! Those five writers are lucky to have you helping them! My own query writing skills are abysmal.

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  2. I've blogged about this (what if they don't like my ms) before and my take is this...if nobody likes your ms then its time to take a hard look at what you've written. But if some do enjoy what you've written, but they are in the minority, then it may be time to find a different critique group. Just like the right agent/author combination is crucial, so is the author/critique group dynamic. Would you feel comfortable taking editing advice for your childrens book from a bunch of hardcore horror writers? The fit has to be right and same thing is true for critique groups. And that doesn't mean finding a group of friends who think you can do no wrong. They recognize the potential and help you develop it into something you can be proud of.

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  3. Carolina, that was so sweet! I think I did a good job. Everyone had some good stuff! I was lucky to get such a nice group of writers!

    DL, where can I find a group of people who think I can do no wrong?? I want in! Ha, ha! ;) I agree with everything you say. It has to be the right fit. I have a friend who got in with a group who wrote mainly in a different genre and it did NOT work!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  4. The key is to think of where the advice is coming from. When people ask me for a review, I really want them to succeed, so, although I may be honest( and it hurts sometimes) I will always be nice about it and hope they know I only want them to succeed. Also hearing critiques from me is nicer than hearing it from repeated publishers.


    CD

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  5. Haha, Hilary, you crack me up! First off, love your sense of humor for offering a bunny. We are THRILLED to have your help offering feedback. I agree with the idea that if we're open-minded in receiving those opinions, we can't go wrong. You give feedback so nicely, by the way!

    Marissa

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  6. Clarissa, I can't believe fellow writers give "mean" critiques. It's certainly fine to be honest, and we should be, but we all need to be aware of how we come across to others. I've read some downright cruel online critiques and I'm frankly shocked every time. It takes anything worth wile out of the critique, because it really hurts the writer emotionally. Getting published is so hard and I feel we're all in this together, so be helpful not hurtful. In other words, I agree with you!

    Marissa! It was a lot of fun to critique those 5 queries! It put me in an agent's or editor's shoes for a while and made me realize more than ever how truly hard their jobs are! Thanks so much for having me on your blog!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  7. I have a writing group...but they are not really my beta readers necessarily. We cheer each other on making and achieving writing goals. Like you, I don't REALLY have regular betas, but sometimes I will ask a fellow writer to read something for me and get their take on it.

    I only ask people who I think will NOT try to craft my book into something it isn't, but rather to help me identify the spots where it maybe isn't as shiny as it could be.

    Shelley

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  8. Hilary - I came over here from the ACP blog because I wanted to tell you how impressed I am with your critiques. (I'm #36, btw). You have given great critiques, but what I am most impressed with is how NICE and SWEET they are. Just reading them, I can tell how much you care about the person you're critiquing, and how you truly just want to help them.

    In response to your question, I can usually tell right away if a critique is going to be helpful or not. I've gotten some where the reader obviously just wasn't a good fit for my writing. I'll read those through in case there's something useful, but usually end up ignoring them for the most part. That being said, if it's a good fit critique, I can usually find help even in things I disagree with. :)

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  9. Shelley, why are they called Beta Readers? I even asked other writers who use the term frequently and they didn't know either! :) Thought maybe you would!

    Larissa, your comment made my day! I guess I'm very sensitive to words, probably goes back to that awkward middle-school girl phase, which I'm still going through! :) I just know some of the critiques I've read on-line would have crushed me when I first started querying. Luckily, I NEVER posted anything on-line! ;)

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  10. HIlary,

    As far as I have found, an 'Alpha' is the person in your life who continues to encourage you to write. He/She may read it along the way, but their job gets you through the MS to 'The End'.

    A 'Beta' then reads it completely. This person will give you all kinds of feedback. Maybe even toss in ideas to help take that first draft to a polished MS worthy of submission. If you're lucky...that beta is a friend, someone who knows you inside and out, and knows that giving their feedback will not hurt you, only help the MS go where it needs to...onto the shelf.

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  11. First, I usually can tell when a critique is sincere or insincere. Some writers want to bash, while others want to help.

    I had to leave one group because a few bashers ruined it for everyone else. With people who want to help, I can tell they're pinpointing weaknesses. Many of them tear apart my chapter, but in the nicest way.

    At home, I look through the comments they wrote. I pick and choose what works. Even if a critique is good, if I make the suggested changes they might not fit the preceding and following chapters. I'd say I use most of the critiques, but some I find unusable.

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  12. Critique partners are great. They bring lots of different skills to the table. It's important to remember to not let their "voice" take over your piece. ...You have to stay true to your "voice."

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  13. I am so happy that you were my assigned mentor over at ACP Query/Pitch Contest. Your critique was spot on and kind...I could feel you rooting me on behind your helpful guidance.

    I've done other online critique contests where the comments were so muddled in snark, I had to really dig through to find the helpful feedback. But any nugget of feedback enlightens me as a writer and I'm always thankful for those who take the time to comment, snarky or not.

    Thanks again Hilary and I have mad respect for you :)

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  14. Victoria, I think you have solved the riddle of the Beta! Thank you! ;)

    Medeia,picking and choosing what works is hard! You really have to step outside your work (and ego too)! :) It's hard to make a change to our babies!

    Sharon, absolutely! Writing in someone else's voice never works. It's simply has to be all you or it sounds forced. Agreed!

    Angela, you are super duper welcome! I hope I helped a little! And boy do I loathe snark! I think it's simply unnecessary and shows a lack of respect for your fellow writer. No snark allowed on this blog! :)

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  15. As a beginner writer - it would be devastating to receive harsh news! But now? I want the cold hard honest truth, so I can improve! But, I think it all depends on the wording and tone behind the criticism! I'm sure you'll do a great job! Thanks for commenting! ;)

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