Personally, I hate that word. (No, it has nothing to do with it being
the French word for criticism. I’m not boycotting
the French anymore. I even buy L’Oreal Lip Liner, although that’s made
in Germany. Gettin’ off the subject. Sorry.)
A criticism or critical comment on some subject, etc. The art or
practice of criticism (Dictionary.com).
I think the definition just made
my case, no? Ugh. The only thing worse than the word critique
is getting a “constructive” one. Can anyone tell me how making critical
comments about another writer’s work is constructive? And bringing it
to the level of an art? (I’d rather spend a day in one of those slick,
modern museums with the pictures of coat hangers and cans of Campbell’s
soup. But that’s just me.)
Don’t get me wrong, when I was a
full-time writer, I was a member of a critique group and had two
critique partners. I love comments that help me become a better writer.
I just don’t like the word. The process can be
helpful. I said “can be.” Depends on the group.
I remember the first time I
watched Siskel and Ebert. For every movie they
reviewed, one gave a thumbs-up, and the other gave a thumbs-down. I
thought, What’s the point? How did the show help me
decide if I should see any of those movies? It didn’t.
A critique group can be just as
confusing. Anyone ever join one that had ya scratchin’ your head? (You
can’t see me, but I raised my hand—you’ll haveta take my word for it.)
One person gives ya what sounds like awesome advice, then the next
person adds to it. Sic. All these fantabulous (My hubby made up that
word. He’s such a sweet man.) ideas, and they’re free! You rush home,
dyin’ to tap-tap-tap the keyboard and use the new info so sweetly
shared with you. Now you feel like a writer. Sigh.
You pop to the next get-together
with a jaunty step, proud of your new masterpiece. You read your stuff,
and a writer who wasn’t at the previous session frowns. (Whassup with that?)
She suggests something altogether different, which just so happens to
be what you started with before implementing the expert suggestions you
received from the last meeting. (Stop pulling out your hair! This has
happened to all of us. For those who say it hasn’t, you’re lyin’.)
predicament can be especially troubling for newbie writers. What to do?
Everyone else in the group knows more than you
(And they make sure
you know they know more than you do.) A writer can end up tryin’ to
please everyone (which of course, is impossible), and by the time the
dust balls settle, you’re frustrated, overwrought, and ya don’t
recognize your work. (This phenomenon can also occur if you’re bipolar,
but I won’t go into the gory details or I’ll haveta dive for my Xanax,
and my knees can’t take it—old war injury.)
Okay, so not all critique groups
are a nightmare. (My editor made me write that.)
Seriously, if you can find a group where everyone is nice (Nice is not
a subjective term!), whose members really wanna help you (really), and
you don’t take advice as an attack (Although it often is. Sorry.), a
critique group may be a boon to your career.
I found what worked best for me
was to have two partners. (Critique partners. Take
your mind outta the gutter; this is a Christian magazine. Sheesh!) I
trusted them implicitly. I got the truth, the whole truth, and nothin’
but the truth. Didn’t hurt me none. (Of course, soon after, I ditched
writing to become a literary agent . . .)
Still, I stick to what I said at
the beginning of this rant—uh—column. I don’t like the word critique.
I prefer, “edit, editing group, and editing partners.” If I want a
critique, I’ll go to France.