Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Critiquing Nightmares

I’ve written about critiquing before. 

(I know, I know, the good blogging thing to do would be to look back and find all the links–because it was a multi-part series–but getting a post up is all I’m good for after the day I’ve had. Update: I caved.  See the end of this post for links.  Okay, you asked, so I will tell you.  I had a meeting with a potential client this morning that ended up being a meeting with seven other people.  Are you surprised that we spent two hours together and nothing got done and I walked out of there with only vague promises about future work? Then I met my screen writing friend for coffee and got even more depressed listening to his stories of near-misses.  Not of car accidents, but might as well be–he keeps getting his scripts to producers only to have them rejected.  Or worse, never to hear from them again.  Which is worse–Hollywood or New York? We couldn’t decide.)

So, anyway, about critiquing.  Even though I’ve written about it before I have a new wrinkle to add to my delicate previous thoughts.  A friend, who shall remain nameless, as will the city she lives in, but let me just say it is far, far away from the west coast, wrote with a dilemma.  She meets in a weekly critique group and one of the women in the group has quite a good novel except for two wee problems: no plot and no conflict.  That could actually be classified as one problem, since plot is conflict, at least to a certain extent.

My friend’s problem was that she has repeatedly brought this up to the plot-less, unconflicted writer to no avail.  Now let me just say that the afore-mentioned friend is a published author, and also one of the best writing teachers I know.  She knows her stuff backwards and forwards.  And the woman in her critique group is simply not paying attention.

What’s a person to do?

As I see it, there are two choices.  The first is the Way of the Chicken–you smile and nod and agree with the rest of the group and assume that the plot-less, un-conflicted writer is happy being a hobbyist and doesn’t really want to get published.  I learned long ago that some people truly want you to read their work and gush about how great it is, without offering any criticism whatsoever.

Option number two is the Way of Truth–you amp up the comments in such a vociferous way that the plot-less one finally gets it.  This is a perilous path, because hurt feelings and anger are sure to result.  However, if a person is truly interested in getting published, you are not doing anybody any favors by ignoring the truth.  They will find out sooner or later, and when they do they may get even more pissed at you for not telling them.

Neither path is too appealing, eh?  That is why it is a dilemma.  However, when it comes to writing (and life, too) it is always best to choose the Way of Truth.

Okay, I give up, I feel too guilty.  Here are the links to the earlier posts on critiquing:

Life in Writing Hell: Being Critiqued

Being Critiqued, Part Two

Being Critiqued, Part Three

Critiquing, Part Four: Giving as Good as You Get

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