My first experience with a critique partner . . .
As a writer I must admit, having other people read/review my work is absolutely terrifying!
You can never tell what the other person is thinking unless they lay it out for you. And most of the time you worry that they might be sugar-coating their opinions. This happens almost always when you allow friends or family to preview your work. Your mother will think it is the best piece of writing in the universe, and your cousin will feel hopelessly too bad about telling you the truth.
Some of your family members might also not be that fond of reading in the first place, simply skimming through your story as if they were studying for history.
That is why you must find not only an earnest lover of literature . . . but also a complete and utter stranger!
For my university writing class, the Professor paired us in two’s. Out first assignment was a short-story of any genre and length, set to be handed in this upcoming week. The girl with whom I was dealt honestly seemed kind, graceful and fair. She is four years older than me, and a great deal more professional-looking.
I must say, at first I was relatively excited about the idea of a critique partner!
I have always wanted one, and yet never knew where to look. The thought of two people helping each other better their writing sounded ideal. Immediately I began working on my story, and finished my rough draft over the course of a long afternoon. Then on Saturday, I was set to visit this girl – who shall strictly remain unnamed – for a proofreading session.
Up until now, I thought my piece was great, the idea was great, and this entire experience was going to be absolutely satisfying!
However, little did I know . . .
My critique partner had watched and read strings of You Tube videos and articles about everything concerning the perfect written piece! Phrases like ‘overstating‘ and ‘irrelevant concept‘ stuck in her mind. She was so excited about this proofreading, that she even fetched thesauruses and dictionaries by the pile! Our highlighters were ready, and so too our seats on her couch.
Then it began . . .
I read her story, and she read mine. Of course – this being our first drafts – I was relatively forgiving about her lack of punctuation and incorrect formatting. Also did I throw a half-blinded eye at the fact that – despite reading it twice – I had absolutely no idea what her story was about.
She, on the other hand, tore my story apart!
Upon arriving at home, I witnessed the madly highlighted yellow-and-red pages of my short-story. I saw the girl having drawn laughing faces by one of my opening-paragraph’s statements :
Somewhere in her rear, a streetlight flickered off.
Apparently – according to her – the word rear refers to physical buttocks. She had been laughing up a storm because of what I wrote, thinking there was a streetlight inside my character’s buttocks!
All I could do was roll my eyes. According to every source I checked – and then double-checked – the word rear does not only mean someone’s buttocks, but also somewhere behind a person!
Am I right? Please, can someone enlighten me?
Moreover, she kept writing ‘overstating’ there where I deemed flecks of description necessary. My characters’ looks and personalities for example. Some of their weaknesses and worries. All of which she wanted to scratch. Saying I need to stick to the story.
I mean, come on!
How can I efficiently tell a story if the reader cannot picture their surroundings. Nor if they are unable to place themselves in the shoes of my characters!
Complaining to my mother about this, she assured me that the girl’s ability as a critique partner is reflected in her ability as a writer. Thus, since I could not even grasp what her story was about, I felt a little bit better.
(Thank you mom!)
Since the beginning I knew that criticism was inevitable. Only what I did not know, was how I would react to it.
And I am not saying that all experiences with critique partners will be as horrid as mine, however I am advising that you try and find someone with a matching writing capability to yours. In short, a person who does not write their entire story in words unknown to someone born without a thesaurus in their hands!
Critique is a good thing, and like all other things in life, it is most effective when pairing with the right partner!
Feel free and share your own critique stories in the comments, and don’t be afraid to follow my blog!