where the writers are
I'll Take My Advice

Recently I was asked to critique a 3-page college essay. As I went through it, I felt like a lot of words had been included to fill space. To mask obscure ideas. And then there were some fun errors--like “vibrantly remember.” Do you mean “vividly remember?” Isn’t “remember” good enough?
I sent off my ideas, and while the student accepted some of them, she got busy and ended up not reading through all my comments (“vibrantly remember” stayed). I was initially miffed--if you’re not planning to read my ideas, why bother asking?
But then I noted, when I sat down to write, that I was more aware of my use of the language. Were all these words necessary? Was I just filling space with these sentences? In essence, I remembered the reason for critiquing: it’s as much to the benefit of the critiquer as it is the author.
Writer’s Digest is putting out a book on critique groups. The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback by Becky Levine. It covers all aspects of critique groups. What to expect. How to behave. What's the purpose. How to find the positive aspects of a piece as well as those which could use improvement. Even as a seasoned critique member--I’ve been in my group for 9 years-- I've pre-ordered a copy (as I tend to vibrantly forget some of these important points.)
What are your thoughts on critique groups? What stories do you have to share?

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some folks don't want to do any better

Jana,
I've had to learn the difference between proofreading and critique. It's been very difficult for me. Some 'writers' just want to be certain that they haven't made a typo; they aren't equally concerned if they are clear and concise.
So be it. Hard to do, but I'm learning.
Good luck!
Best,
Jodi

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You're right. It's hard.

Perhaps it's that people always think what they show you is the absolute best. I was "done" with my novel My Half of the Sky at least nine times. Each time I'd pass it to an editor and think, "there can't be anything--but typos--for you to catch." I was wrong every time.
I always appreciated the insights, but I've had people become bitingly personal when their work got critiqued unfavorably. As if you're attacking their family.