Friday, April 30, 2010

Prepare to Be Critiqued!

Next week it’s my turn in the hot seat. My crit mates have the first 99 pages of my YA WIP and will share their thoughts -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- with me. So I thought I’d take this time to write about how I prepare and follow up to get the most from my critique time.

First, let me tell you that this is not the first critique session for this WIP. We reviewed about 75 pages some months ago. And while I still consider my work in its first draft, I made a few significant changes based on suggestions, and deleted scenes and plot lines that had become dead ends.

Now I haven’t looked at those first 99 pages in weeks; I've been plugging away, trying to finish the manuscript, so we can do it all again soon with the next 100-plus pages.

So to get ready for this Friday, I will try to read my critique submission with fresh eyes and mark up places in my manuscript where I have concerns. Just like when I give a critique, I'll think about structure, plot layers, characters, action, settings, tone, voice.

At the critique session, I’ll listen as my crit mates take their turns and pull apart my manuscript. It’s always interesting when they address the same concerns that I had, wonderful when they trigger a solution, and totally gratifying when they bring up points that eluded me. When everyone finishes with their official critiques, I’ll ask any remaining questions from my preparation, or new questions that had occurred to me during the session.

Over the course of the following day or two, I’ll review each marked-up manuscript and cover note. I’ll transfer all comments onto one master document, so when it comes time to revise, I’m only referring to one manuscript, not eight.

And then I’ll tuck my manuscript in a drawer for a two-week R&R. When I'm ready, I’ll take it out, read through the marked up master, open up a new computer file, and start revising! For me, that's when the real fun begins.


  1. Three points really jump out at me here: transfer all comments into one master document (I agree this works great), the 2-week R&R, and revising being the real fun. Great post!

  2. I've always had a hard time giving my work your "two week R&R" because critique comments spark a desire to start red hot revising. Immediately.

    Your way is probably better.

  3. The first thing I do when I get home from having a mss critiqued is sit down and go through everyone's comments and every page of their marked up manuscripts. That way, the discussion from the meeting is fresh in my mind and I can start to get ideas of what I want to do. Then I let things percolate - but I don't wait two weeks. Maybe a few days, over the weekend since we meet on a Friday. But come Monday, I'm back at the computer with all the mss - I go through each one each page at a time, rather than transferring everything onto one.

  4. Happy to have found your blog. I like the play of words with your blog title!

    In case you're interested, I'm hosting a little Spring Poetry contest over at my blog. Contest ends May 3rd at midnight!

  5. Marcia, if I could skip first drafts and go right to revision, I would!

    Gale, I lied. I don't always wait two weeks for every bit of revision. Some things cry out to be "fixed" immediately. But I do wait before I start major revisions.

    Meg, I do everything I can to reduce the amount of paper in my life. It grows like a fungus around me. So I use my one manuscript method and file away the other marked up manuscripts.

    Terresa, welcome! And thanks for the invite!

  6. There's an art to critiquing, but there's definitely also an art to accepting criticism! It never fails to amaze me how I see a work so much more clearly right *after* I've handed it over to a critter. Suddenly, all the typos I missed the previous dozen edits are glaring at me!

  7. Transferring all critiquers' comments onto one manuscript has really helped me out, so thanks for that tip, J.A. Must run now. I've got a manuscript to critique. :-)

  8. KM -- that's so true. It's almost a fail-safe. Give your work for review, you'll spot the typos instantly!

    JL -- that makes me so happy!

  9. Since I'm missing the meeting on Friday, I'm just going to throw out how surprised I was by the end of chapter 20! Wow!

  10. Meg: oh, goody! That kind of surprised me too!

  11. What an interesting system you all have. I think there is something very valuable in looking at big chunks of the manuscript to find the flow and the character development.