Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don’t Be Afraid – Critiques Don’t Hurt By Lea Schizas

Hi friends. Lea Schizas creator of the MuseItUp Club has generously offered the following free information and has encouraged others to share - as long as copyrighted material is kept in tact. There's probably a way to post the entire ebook as a pdf document, but technically challenged as I am, I haven't figured out how to do that. So, instead, I will post individual chapters over the next few days for you to read and enjoy.

"The members of the MuseItUp Club are proud to offer you this FREE
ebook. Within, you’ll find helpful information on why and how critiques
are an important area in a writer’s life.

Copyright 2008 to the writers of this Ebook.


Don’t Be Afraid – Critiques Don’t Hurt, By Lea Schizas

The Importance of Being a Careful Critiquer, By Tessa Johnstone

Writing Features – Critiquing Groups Effectively Improve Writing Results, by Jan Verhoeff

Critique Group Essay, By J. D. Webb

The Value of the Critique or The Invaluable Critique, By Charles Mossop

Critique Groups, By Lisa Haselton

Critique Groups: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, By Nancy Famolari

Critiques Do Help, By Jennifer Payton

My Critique Group, By Susan Stephenson

Helpful Writing Tool, By Jessica Kennedy

My Writing Career?, By Christine I. Speakman

Don’t Stay Married To Your Words, By Donna M. McDine

Alpha Muser Artichoke: My Critique Group, By Michele M. Graf:

Guest appearances by: Amber – Bob – Gloria – Katie – Susan

The Benefits of Joining a Critique Group, By Gloria Oren


“I’m a writer.”
“Wow, that’s so cool. Do you have an editor?”
“Um…no, they’re too expensive.”
“So you’re editing your own work?”
“Yeah, why?”

Wow, that last question really punches reality to a seasoned writer. New writers
read their work, edit to the best of their capability, and then when the rejections
roll in they have no idea why.

It’s because writers aren’t the best subjects to review their own work. They know
their stories inside out and miss obvious plot holes other readers will notice.

Within Writing from the Soul: Critiques Don’t Bite you’ll find valuable information
from members of The MuseItUp Club, an award-winning writing community.

Their insight as to why critique groups are important, how they can help you,
and why you should join one will inspire and motivate you.

And now, without further delay, we welcome you to

Writing From the Soul: Critiques Don’t Bite

Don’t Be Afraid – Critiques Don’t Hurt
By Lea Schizas

I’ll never forget my first experience in a critique group. Some would say ‘what a horrible experience’, whereas I claim it was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career.

I was a newbie writer, no, let me clarify this. I’ve always had the passion to write. Won a few competitions in high school and then I got married once I graduated. It wasn’t until 1999 when I picked up my first Writer’s Digest magazine that the Muse began to enter my system. By then I had five kids and old enough they didn’t need mommy 24/7. It was the year 2000 when I finally woke up from my self-induced coma of taking care of everyone else’s needs but my own.

As a newbie writer introduced once again to the craft I wanted to join a few writers groups and critique groups to get in the swing of things. My writers groups, two that I distinctly remember, contained writers who hogged information. They would brag they sent out a query, or a submission, but when asked ‘where’ they clammed up as though the mere words blinded them some how. It didn’t take me very long to realize these writers were very insecure about themselves because if they were confident they wouldn’t fear other writers having the information and possibly submitting to the same venue as them.


My first critique group did not have any order, or at least I realized much later in time when I did join others with guidelines. This first critique group allowed members to sub whenever. No guidance as to how many should have critiqued. Many times there were no critiques offered. Once again, it slowly donned on me that critiques were given to ‘cyber pals’ and not to newcomers. I left that group within a couple of months.

The next critique group contained a more orderly guideline – once you critiqued someone else’s piece then you were able to hand one in yourself. I did. My first critique – the one I am and will always be grateful for – was from a man. His words are still fresh in my head as though it was yesterday:

“Are you sure you want to be a writer? Why don’t you stick with hairdressing.”

That, my dear friends, was the wisdom that started my writing career. Why? Because those words pissed me off so much I just had to show him that I did, indeed, have talent but searching for some guidance. I stuck it out because that is my personality. I will not give up because someone else told me so and that is exactly what you should never do. Do not quit because someone else does not have the grace and finesse to critique the right way.

As writers, we are the masters and creators of our work. We know exactly where we’re
heading with a story. However, when you have several writers pointing at the same passage, then as the master you must come down from your podium and objectively look at your work through their interpretations and thoughts. Only you have the mighty pen to change what will suit your manuscript, but you are risking a rejection if you do not, at least openly and honestly, reread your work with a reader’s point of view. After all, the critiques are given based on what these writers are reading, so technically, they are your first readers.

A good critique group offers the good, the bad, and the very ugly. If you are afraid of criticism my advice to you is to get a tough skin. Critiques are like reviews – not all of them will be good. So get used to it. I personally love the groups that blend, dissect, toss, chop up, and spit out my manuscript because it’s through these types of groups I know my work will only improve. These critique groups are honest but not rude. There is no room for rudeness or bashing. Critiques can be offered in diplomatic ways without any hurt feelings. The hurt feelings come in when a writer cradles their baby (AKA manuscript) and refuses to change anything. Then why join a critique group?

Before joining any critique group you must remember these points:

• Do not have your guard up. No one is out to get you.
• Be honest with your work and actually look at the areas others are telling you more work needs to be done
• Do not offer a negative critique to someone just because they did to you. We are not in high school anymore.
• Do not skim and offer a weak critique to someone because you have no time to
‘really’ look at their work. Be honest and tell them you will be a tad late because you are up to your eyeballs in work. We’re humans with outside commitments so I am
sure your members will understand. But make sure to hand one in.
• When you join a critique group and you are given their guidelines, look them over
carefully, see if you can commit to their routine. The worse thing is to have everyone introduced to you, set a schedule, and then you disappear because you can’t handle it. When you are told you will be critiquing once a week, you should know right off if that is something you can handle.

Critique groups offer many benefits to a writer:

Making contacts
Networking with other writers
Improving your work – and this last point is very important because many writers miss the most important area: when you critique other manuscripts you are honing your own work in the process. How? By reading and spotting other writers’ mistakes you will subconsciously avoid making those similar mistakes.

Now put on your tough skin and join a critique group.

Lea Schizas is an award-winning author and editor. She is the founder of the MuseItUp Club, The Muse Online Writers Conference, co-founder of Apollo’s Lyre, and many yahoo groups. She is the mother of five and proud to say she still maintains some sanity.

Her newest book is a middle grade chapter book: Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us
available through Barnes and Noble and other major online stores. It is published by 4RV Publishing. For more information on Lea Schizas, link here: http://www.leaschizas.com

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