Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Locked Lips Torture

Critique groups endorse a form of torture not mentioned in any Geneva Convention. In my two critique groups, we try to abide by that all-important rule: when your work is being critiqued, your lips are to be locked until everyone has spoken. Hard? Torture hard!

When the critiques begin, you twitch, fiddle with a pencil, or shift in your chair. If someone mentions a small flaw and you don't agree, your brain explodes. You long to cry out, "You didn't read carefully enough! I did explain that! See, it's right there!"

Harder still, is keeping your lips locked when a fellow writer doesn't "get it" and demonstrates total ignorance about a basic premise of your manuscript!

I witnessed two writers accomplish this feat of self-control during the last month. They listened SILENTLY to a few clueless critiques (mine included) that missed an essential point of their manuscript. Kudos to both! One had written a picture book that experimented with the age of the main character. The other is writing a novel blending reality with exaggeration and magic.

Now comes the happy part: post torture, both authors were rewarded. The excellent group discussions following the critiques provided them with helpful fodder for revisions.

Moral of the story? If you belong to a good critique group, suffering through locked lips torture sometimes pays off.


  1. When I first read the title of your post, LOCKED LIPS TORTURE, I expected a steamy YA scene.

    Seriously, though...keeping quiet through a critique is torture, but if a writer is able to do it, the payoffs can be great.

    Remind me of this when the group critiques my proposals on Friday!

  2. Thankfully, the rest of the group can't hear what the locked lipster is thinking while she's being critiqued!

  3. We have been a little loose with our usual zip-the-lip rule lately. It's funny because we have a new member who has come to check us out and before we began we told her how we critique: sandwich method and locked lips. And directly after that, someone began a critique with a negative statement and the author responded. Do as we say, not as we do! LOL!

  4. Yes, we all know the locked lips rule is hard to follow sometimes!

    Perhaps if that critique had begun with a positive thought, rather than a negative one, the author's lips could have remained locked (at least for a while).

  5. The sandwich method has spilled over into the rest of my life. My 14-year-old always asks me if I'm doing the sandwich method whenever he senses a "but" on the horizon. No locked lips for him.

  6. The sandwich method means starting your critique with a positive comment, then launching into what could be improved, and ending with another positive.

  7. I've never heard it called the sandwich method.

    I just think it's polite.