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A note on critiques

From: Peter B.
Sent on: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 3:38 PM

Hi Writers,


I forget sometimes that as people come and go from the Burlington Writers Group, new members may not have been briefed on how we do critiques. If you've joined the group within the last year or so, please read this before reading/commenting on the story for tomorrow's meeting.


We read stories/poems as drafts. They aren't perfect, so these workshops are not opportunities to judge them as "good" or "bad." Instead, these workshops help the writer understand what s/he has communicated. This will always contrast with what the writer thought s/he communicated. It's then the writer's job to figure out how to say what s/he tried to say more clearly.


This was driven home to me last week when I received very different kinds of comments on the same element of my story. A cancer scare appeared late in my story. Reader A said, "The cancer has to be cut." Reader B said, "I don't understand what role the cancer has in the story. It came up rather suddenly and isn't resolved."


Reader A made a judgment. In my view, the cancer does belong. That's why I put it there.


Reader B pointed out what might be missing in order for me to make the cancer work. I have to ask myself, "What is the role of the cancer in the story? How can I make it less sudden? Should I resolve it? If so, how?" When I have those answers and communicate them clearly, it will make sense.


Both Readers A and B point to a problem with that element. Reader B is gentler and makes targeted suggestions.


We're here to help each other think. We are not here to "fix" a broken story, but to help a developing story become itself. If that sounds fluffy and self-helpy, my apologies, but it's the best way I can think of to describe the difficult writing process.


Any questions? Comments? Please let me know. And see you tomorrow!







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