WS Episode 19: Critiquing Part 2

Alice hosts part 2 of what to look for when critiquing. I know to the new novelist or writer that you want to shake us all and say ‘picky picky picky!’ My advice is to just pick one thing you have never heard of before and work on it. Listen to this again in a month and something else new will jump out at you. Writing is a journey, and we hope that sharing what we have learned so far will help others get a head start. Thanks for your support! Writing Snippets

(about 18min.)

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Information for the beginning or aspiring writer about all things writing in the fiction world. Novels, publishing, etc. We feature author and other professional interviews. View all posts by Writing Snippets

25 responses to “WS Episode 19: Critiquing Part 2

  • Jess Smart Smiley

    Picky, picky, picky! πŸ˜› Just kidding.

    Dialogue is so important to me—it’ll make or break a book in a heartbeat, because I learn so much about characters through what they say and how they say it.

    I love the line you shared to exemplify “show, don’t tell”: “He took a fork and stabbed his dinner”! That’s great! LOL

    I also like how you touched on completing episodes, or books within a series. Sure, the story continues, but there are certain things that need a conclusion of some sort.

    I’d really like to hear everyone’s thoughts on when to stop critiquing a book and when to just enjoy or appreciate what it is you’re reading. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately with books and movies, because it’s critical for me, as a writer, to critique a story and know what I like and dislike about it, and to pay attention to what is happening so that I can learn from the experience and build on my own understanding. But when do you just accept a story and take it in at face value? Just like showing and telling in a piece of writing, I think that critiquing
    and not critiquing are two different techniques to achieve a common goal.

    • Writing Snippets

      Hey, Jess! Great comment. I agree with you about not critiquing is a good skill to have. As far as knowing when to stop critiquing a book- that is a great question. We will have to touch on that in a podcast. I know that when I started reading Hunger Games, I was in edit mode and found issues, but soon was so engrossed it didn’t matter. There is no such thing as a perfect book, but one that is hard to put down despite it’s imperfections is a good goal for our own books. Thanks.

      • alicebeesley

        I never know when to quit editing. I had to force myself not to start rereading my most recent revision of my novel and send it out. critiquing books and movies sometimes ruins them for me, too. I know a book or movie is good when I get into it and can’t figure out what’s going to happen next and stop editing.

    • Jess Smart Smiley

      That’s always nice—when the story is so good that you have no choice but to read on and leave the critic far behind. It’s also great, though, when it’s a fantastic story to read as is, but is also rewarding from the standpoint of a critique. I guess I always struggle with finding that perfect balance between reading for pleasure and critiquing as I read, because they seem to come from two different places.

      Okay, okay, I’ll stop writing here in a second, but I also think that some books leave themselves completely open for critiques, while others don’t. Anything that’s technical in any way is just aching for a critique, while as other stories could only use a good psychology check.

  • Jess Smart Smiley

    LOL I don’t know! I guess that some books have more to do with the psychology behind the story, if you’re looking for that kind of thing.

    Like the story of Pinnochio: the series of events are completely tied to their own unique logic (wooden boy comes to life after a visit from the Blue Fairy and is at odds with his conscience in the form of a cricket, he gets sidetracked by a fox and ends up at a carnival where all the children are turned to donkeys, so he throws himself into the ocean, gets swallowed by a whale, and gets sneezed out, then becomes a real boy) and there’s so much more happening in the situations psychologically, more so than could be found or helped in a direct literary critique.

    Does that make sense? Ha ha ha!

  • Cara

    Ouch! These are all things I struggle with. When I wrote my first book I really struggled with dialog and not making all the characters sound like the same person. On the current manuscript I’m working on I think I’ve done better with the dialog but that was after a lot of practice and actually just sitting and listening to people talk for awhile.
    I also think it’s hard to end a book because there are a lot of things you have to keep track of so you can make sure you resolve them, especially in a series. I have to keep a list of all the things in my story that need to be resolved and when I’m going to do that.

    • Jess Smart Smiley

      That’s a great idea! WS should do a post about mapping out your story, or ways to keep track of plot lines, etc.

      I can think of a few episodes where authors brought up the same thing Cara mentioned, where they feel lost sometimes within their own stories, but it would be fun to tackle the issue head-on.

    • Writing Snippets

      Cara,
      I have yet to meet an author who can do it all perfectly without any help. This is why a writer group, or a writer novel exchange is invaluable. Not to mention a good editor, Like Lisa Mangum or Tristi Pinkston, in case you are not sure. I have seen writers improve dramatically, myself included, from having their writer flaws pointed and practicing a different way. Thanks for you comment. -Lillian

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Here’s a silly question from someone who is just learning to write (um…it’s my friend?): how does a novel exchange work and can you recommend any ways of participating in one in Utah?

      • Writing Snippets

        Usually a novel exchange happens when you network and find another author who needs an alpha reader (or beta reader) Asking on writer websites to see if anyone is interested works most of the time too. We tend to do exchange within our writer group, but some of us look for people specifically interested in the genre our particular novel is in. For instance. I have a sci fi/ psychological thriller (soft horror) about through its first full revision and I would like feedback with someone who is more into that type of writing. An exchange is a critique for a critique. Tell your…um…friend to just put feelers out to see if anyone else in the area- or Facebook might work, although I haven’t tried it there, to see if there is anyone else ready to do a critique exchange. Be specific in what you are looking for. Line edit? Say upfront (and in that case a line edit is not my specialty.) IF you are looking for big picture or why your novel isn’t working type of feedback, that is entirely different than a grammar check. Let us know how it goes.

    • alicebeesley

      Great ideas Cara on listening to people talk and making a list of things that need to be resolved at the end of your story. In my last revision of one of my books, my writer’s group pointed out that I’d forgotten to resolve some things at the end for certain characters. It only took a sentence to two to fix it.

  • Jess Smart Smiley

    Ooh! This thought just came to me: do any of you have any advice (or have you heard any) on creating a good balance between dialog and action in a piece of writing?

    Are there any principles governing how much of each to use? Obviously, there are more action-packed novels, and some that are more dialog-driven, but are there any guidelines?

    • alicebeesley

      We had a member of our group who taught English and she said try to include an equal amount of introspection, dialogue, action, and description in every paragraph if possible.

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Wow. That would be some solid, well-thought-out writing. Well, I tried. Writing was fun while it lasted! πŸ˜›

      • Writing Snippets

        Alice, I actually thought it was alternating paragraphs of one of those topics, and not all in one paragraph. Thanks for bringing that up though, I had been trying to remember a 5th topic, but I guess there isn’t one.

      • alicebeesley

        Hmm. Maybe it was include introspection, dialogue, action and description in different paragraphs. Anyway. The point is to try to mix it up and have a variety, not go heavy on one or two things like dialogue. Break it up with description or action, etc . . .

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Variety makes sense. Right now I’m struggling a bit with making the story too one-sided, and too much about one aspect of the story. Time to bring in other characters, different perspectives, a season pass by…thanks for the help πŸ™‚

  • John D. Payne

    I really agree about critiques being essential to good dialog. If nobody but me reads my writing, all the characters tend to sound just like me. And that’s a problem. Except in that one story where everyone is a clone of me.

  • Juanito Beesley-ski

    Honestly, I was missing the sound of my wife’s voice, when the thought occurred to me, “Hey, I probably can hear her on ‘Writing Snippets!'” Sure enough, I can hear my lovely wife 24/7/365 on this fun podcast.

    Just to be legit, I did listen to the whole segment. I got a kick at how much fun you guys have talking about all the various nuances of writing. As Alice knows, I’m not a big fantasy/sci-fi fan, but I do love biographies and autobiographies.

    To Alice and everyone at Writing Snippets, keep up the good work and may all of you get a six figure advance on your next book deal — your spouses and significant others in your life would really like that!

    • Jess Smart Smiley

      LOL That’s pretty sad, if you have to listen to the blog to get to your wife’s voice! πŸ˜› Thanks for letting her share her wisdom with wanna-bes like myself.

      I’m a big fan of auto/biographies, too. What are some of your favorites?

    • alicebeesley

      Thanks Hon, It’s about time you listened to my voice. Ha ha! Luv ya

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