Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Word From Our Sponsor

Current mood: calm

Category: Writing and Poetry

Currently on my IPOD: Cecelia: Simon and Garfunkel

Good Morning to my Friends, Family and Family of Friends,

I am going to link you kids to some of my favorite blogs and then we are going to have a lecture on critiquing. So go run out get a Venti White Chocolate Rasberry Skim Latte with 3 extra shots of espresso and whip. Xtra Whip. Then sit down and take some notes.

Top Five Blogs (at least in my book):

1)One Word, One Rung, One Day

2)Reid All About It

3)Stephen Morse

4)Misti: My candy lovin freakishly wonderful poet friend

5)Random Acts of Writing

Now don't get your panties in a bunch if you aren't on here. If you are to the right of this blog as one of my subscrips, then I love you.

Everyone got their notebooks out? Isn't that a phrase of the past..How's this. Everyone got their laptops out?


Writing is difficult enough. Pouring your soul out onto blank screens, pages, little paper napkins at coffee houses each and every day of your life for no one to read. But hits you. Maybe I should have my mom and my best friend, Rover read this. After all she loves everything I do. Right? So you go home, email your mother and Rover (who happens to be a writer too) the masterpiece you just wrote.

Here are the two replies you get:

Dear Son,

I loved your poem about me and that Christmas we spent in Jersey back in 77. I am so glad you still have your Erector set and you still play with it every night before going to bed. I am so proud of you. You are definitely going to be famous. My son..famous!

I love you,


And then there's the critic:

Hey Dude! Good to hear from you. What the hell was this piece about? I don't think you should write about your first sexual experience and call it a poem. This sucked. I've been writing for ten years and never have I read a work more terrible than this. Go rewrite it and this time read some erotic poetry before you even attempt to do something like this again.

Still friends?


Lesson 1: If you want an honest opinion, never ask your mother. Never, Ever. She will love you no matter what the hell you put down on paper.

2: Critiquing can ruin friendships, lovers and everything in between.

But. If you are open to honest remarks and hope to learn from them, then no sweat, right? Wrong. Crits that are particularly harsh or are out to be a*holes in the name of literature can be damaging. I have been on the receiving end of many critiques that have pushed me down into my self doubting pit of hell.

3. You have to grow thick skin. This is similar to the rejection rules. But a good critique will have these elements.

A) Honest feedback: You are only hurting the other writer if you praise his works and fail to provide something for that writer to go on when they go to do the rewrites etc.. As I said before, if I wanted a pat on the back, I would send the pieces I write, well, most of them, to my mom. (there are just some things that come out of my head that my mother should never, ever read) Writing is an isolated career and having strangers spend their time telling you that your writing is nice, pretty, etc..just because you are nice and pretty will get you absolutely no where. But a writer who tells you that your protagonist is weak and the plot is worse, then you have struck the proverbial pot o gold in literary friends.

B) Reasons. You can tell someone a thousand times that the writing "just isn't doing it for you". But, if you follow this up with a top ten list of the reasons why you are truly helping the other writer. It does you no good to tell someone that the protagonist is a pansy who should be riding the short bus if you can't tell them why. Maybe the protagonist is a pansy who rides the short bus, maybe that was the point, but if the other writer isn't getting the point across and it is lost on you, then you need to tell him.

Do not be afraid to say these things. Now, this doesn't mean that you have to be a complete and utter a*hole about it, but being constructive with your criticism is most usually accepted at any time.

I have been banned from one critique group. Why? I was honest. The other women, yes this was all women, were writing about their best friends, their dogs, their perfectly perfect happy home lives and I showed up with the beginning of my novel about Judas Iscariot.

I just wanted honest feedback. I assumed (and when you assume you make an ass between u and me) that they were there for the same. First story, some kind of crap about a pony or barbie doll or whatever. I sat there, thinking that this was possibly a huge joke. It sounded like something I would have written as such and then posted as a blog to see what people would say. Unfortunately this was not only not a joke, but the woman took her poetry very very seriously. At least she said she did. The women turned to me and asked me, the new girl, what I thought.

Uh...I thought that it sucked. Well, I said this in a little more eloquent way, but if you summed up the transcription of my ramblings, that is what you would find. But I was nice. Very nice. I encouraged her to go out and get a few copies of poetry books. And then she told me that this had been accepted as a finalist for a contest at AHA! We shall touch on internet writing scams some other time. Remind me, I might forget.

Anywho, then the other three women went on and on about her writing. Saying how wonderfully expressive it was, how true to her feelings and more bull. I thought I was going to puke. Then I brought up my piece and read the first page. I was told that it was blasphemous. HA! Finally a real reaction.

My point is this. When you are going to critique another persons work, and not just compliment them or tell them that they are wonderfully expressive just to hear the sound of your own voice, then keep in mind that this person, no matter what stage of their career they are in, needs to learn. I am by no means an expert or critical extraordinary super literary hero, but I know when I hear good writing. And of course, you have to understand too that what you write may or may not be in the style of the crits favorite works or it may just be that your writing has no style at all, something that is difficult to grasp or elaborate upon.

Honesty is best and providing the reasons why you did or did not like the work is key to giving effective critiques. Allow yourself to be submerged in the work and then back off once you send it off to be read. What is that Buddhist principle? Pretend everyone on this earth was put here to teach you a lesson. Grow a spine, stand up on your own two feet and listen to what others have to say. Although your writing may be very personal, the crit. should be a tool to learn and not ammo. to use against others when they tell you what you don't want to hear and you decide to go on a literary killing spree.

If you have to, give your critique a numeric rating system. Something my friend, Mike Neff taught me. Give the writer something concrete to go on. If they get a rating of 1 then there were too many problems to fix. You give them a 5 then they are better than Russo, Oats or Shakespeare combined. No gray areas, no mis-understanding of words etc...Make up your own if you have to. As a writer, I think that there is nothing worse then a crit. that says I am wonderful, perfect and can do no wrong. I would much rather have them tell me that I need to improve and why.

I hope this helps.

I must get ready to go to work. Enjoy your day and any and all crits of the blog welcome, always welcome.

Yours in Critiquing, Circular Breathing and Crying Over Nothing,


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