Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Are critiques helpful?

Just thought I'd copy here something I said in one of the advanced creative writing forums for the OU course I'm currently doing (as a student).

A fellow student posted saying:

Do critiques help?

I'm stuck with my thing. I don't even want to look at it! Critiques are at total opposites with my structure. Can't please everybody. But how do we know who is right? Oh the subjectivity! I suppose we have to rely on our instinct? But can we trust it?!

This was my reply:

There are times when critiques definitely help. The typo that has been staring you in the face, but you can't see it because your brain reads what you meant to say, not what's actually on the page. Continuity errors are another, especially after a piece has been revised a couple of times. It's easy to think that you said something when you haven't because you've forgotten that it was in a paragraph that you deleted. Pacing, explaining too much or too little. Critiquers can definitely help with these.

Other things, probably not. Which viewpoint or verb tense, things like that, are more a matter of taste and opinion, so I'd say go with your instinct.

I know that, especially when they're beginners, writers (and I include my younger self here!) often feel that if only someone could come along and say, "Just delete this, add that, change this, leave that as it is," and voila! they would have a wonderful story that will sell to the first place they send it and be hailed as wonderful by everyone who reads it. Or in other words, they want the magic secret to writing the perfect story.

Is this what people secretly want when they ask for a critique? Any of you have any thoughts on whether critiques are useful or not? What sort of things do you expect a critique to pick up?
Tags: writing reflection
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