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Community Writing: Critique Thy Neighbour

writing-group

I’m part of a writer’s group. Several in fact,  although I’m far more active in the more social group than the others and that’s just because it’s more convenient for me. The great thing about writing groups is being able to share writing and let others give insight as to what you wrote. A lot of times we talk through ideas, explain what an official sending address looks like, what sites are perfect for getting people’s names, and occasional debates about Twilight, Fifty Shades, and other heated topics. *I may have played the devil’s advocate on a number of occasions.

However, most importantly, we encourage each other to write. This include adding short excerpts and asking for feedback, because as a writer, feedback is important. Rachel Poli wrote a blog post some time ago about exchanging stories with her sister Kris, and how they critique each others work. It’s a great idea… unless you’re facing the Critique Monster.

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The Writer who Reads

If you read a lot of books, and you’re a writer, there are a number of things that you pick up immediately when reading someone else’s work. Here are a few:

  • Style: This is the way the person writes. Their word choice. The structure of their sentences. Whether they are descriptive or informative, narrative or argumentative.
    • If I were to read someone else’s horror story, my mind automatically starts comparing it to other horror writers I’ve read or even worse, myself.
  • Tone: The attitude or perspective of the writing. Whether it’s informal, humourous, melancholic, cheerful and so on. It is linked to style, through the choice of words the author uses.
    • Young Adult fantasy novels tend to be more informal and almost light in tone, while adult fantasy novels are mostly dark and morose. Telling the same story with a different tone can change the experience dramatically.
  • Voice: This is how the author tells the story. It includes perspective (1st person etc) and carries a particular point of view by either the charactes or the narrator.
    • The story told from a child’s point of view will be different to a teenager or adult. When reading about a twelve year old yet they sound forty, that’s voice gone wrong.

Critiqued: It’s not your story

grammar

I recently read a friends story. I struggled to read through it the first time. As I was reading I kept thinking, “This isn’t how I would have written it.” and when I was about to give feedback I remembered a very important fact; this wasn’t my story. These were not my character, my world, my voice or tone or style. This was somebody else’s work and I should therefore treat it as such. I read it again and read it for what it was. Then I read it again to pick up any inconsistencies.

This is one of the mistakes of critiquing. We want to conform the story to what we want it to be instead of appreciating it for what it is. Writing book reviews has made me aware of these idiosyncrasies to reading other writer’s, and if the story doesn’t suit my particular writing expectations, I lose perspective and judge it unfairly. It has made me wonder how many others have done the same to me, read my writing and thinking the same things, missing the point of the story to focus on the faults.

It is a difficult process and thankfully Rachel (you’re a star!) wrote great articles for Critiquing a Novel. You should check them out. As for me, it’s a working progress but you gotta love writing communities and I would implore you to join one, even if it’s online. It’s worth it.


Are you part of a writing group?

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About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African born, published author working as a Technical Writer for Everlytic and a writer for Gamecca Magazine. He has published short stories both internationally and locally, and is hoping to publish a novel in the near future. He is an avid reader, inspired blogger, and an aspiring digital artist.

14 responses »

  1. Why, yes I am part of a writing group 😉

    I also have to remind myself that, just because I don’t like a certain book or genre doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s awful in itself. My tastes may just be different.

    Reply
  2. Great post, Nthato. I am part of a local writers group and critiquing is hard. I’m always taking what the others say about my work and try to use some of that to look over theirs, lol.
    And thanks a lot for the shoutout. ❤

    Reply
  3. Really liked this post and appreciated the thanks/accolades you gave to Rachel. I have saved a lot of her posts to pass along to my Writer Wannabees in my university class.

    Reply

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