Writing has been called a solitary pursuit, and while this is mostly true, every writer needs a support system of critique and feedback. Moms are usually great at support, but not so much on objective comments. This is where a writing group comes in. Not only do you get objective feedback (as objective as anyone can be, because let’s face it, writing and reading is a subjective business), but you also get a variety of perspectives. Everyone interprets things differently based on their schema, the filter with which they see the world that is formed by their background and experiences. It’s good to know beforehand how a reader might interpret something. Then you as the writer can decide if you are comfortable with that interpretation, or if something needs to be changed to avoid misconceptions.
It’s also great to get input from people who’ve had different experiences. As writers, we write what we know, but let’s face it, sometimes we have to use our imagination and a little research to go outside our realm of expertise. We want the details right, don’t we? I gave a character bruised ribs, and a person in my writer’s group said, “Hey, I’ve had bruised ribs. Here’s what it’s really like…”
Not all feedback is created equal. As the writer, you have to take it or leave it, though you should always listen to it first. We use the word “objective” to describe the ideal kind of critique, but there really is no such thing. Each reader, however well-read or accomplished in writing, still has their own tastes in what they like to see. Sometimes a writer and reader click like brain twins. Sometimes some serious deliberation is needed. Sometimes we feel like the feedback is coming out of the blue and misses the mark. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process.
It’s also important for a writer to know his or her tendencies when accepting feedback. Critique should be a discussion, not be perceived as a personal attack. It might even help to figure out how you best receive it. Maybe you need a sandwich delivery: positive/needs improvement/positive. Maybe you’d like alternative suggestions, or just have something pointed out and you figure it out later yourself.
Yeah, the writing itself is a solitary activity, but writers themselves are not alone. There’s a huge community out there waiting to embrace each other. If you don’t already know about the #MyWANA hastag on Twitter, go to Kristen Lamb’s blog and read about it. http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/join-the-love-revolution-mywana/ #MyWANA means We Are Not Alone (writers).
Happy writing and critiquing,
~Dreaming wide awake