Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Problems of Feedback, Support, and Critiques

The always-readable Emma Darwin has a brilliant post on this broad topic. Anyone who has ever participated in a writing group, writing workshop, or writers' forum will find this interesting.

I was especially impressed by her insight that the critiquing style of the reviewer needs to match the listening style of the writer or the whole thrust of the critique may be missed or overinterpreted. This would be a good article to print out and distribute to writing groups or classes (and I plan to steer some of my acquaintances to it).


Tim Stretton said...

I've never been part of a writing group and I'm not sure I'd ever want to be. To gain any value from the critique, I'd need my reader to

a) understand my genre
b) understand what I'm trying to do in it
c) have my respect as a critic

Obviously these people exist, but where I live, most local writers are excluded on the grounds of a) alone.

That said, Aliya provided a great deal of insight having read The Last Free City - but of course she readily meets my three criteria.

In general I think the potential is for amateur critique to do much more harm than good. If I wanted serious feedback now, I think I'd pay a professional for it.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

I found novel workshops at local colleges to be very useful, and, for a time, great fun. Of course, you can't really get any useful structural critiques of a novel when people are seeing it one chapter at a time.

Your criterion a) is one that many writers consider crucial, which is probably why there are so many writing groups that focus solely on mystery, sci-fi, etc. (There are also some 'mainstream' groups that specifically exclude genre writers--not out of snootiness, but because so many of the elements dont translate well.)

You are entirely right, however, that it is possible for feedback to do more harm than good.

Heck, I feel another post coming on...

Jen said...

I'm in a writing group and it's generally helpful, but it sometimes feels like a big mutual admiration society. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Plus there's usually cookies.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Isaak said...

Hey, Jen--

Well, at least you're in a supportive group. Not all of them are. Some are downright nasty, some are like gossipy little Peyton Places, and I hear that some are like odd dictatorships.

Cookies are always a plus, though I tend to favor groups that have wine.