The Value of Critiques
by Kim Smith
I recently entered a writing competition that offered a critique of my entry by no less than three judges. Excitement filled my heart. In the absence of any literary professionals in my life, ie: teachers or editors or authors, I'm not always sure of what is working, and what isn't.
Sure, I've entered various online critique groups, but I've never taken them that seriously. After all, these are other novice writers, like myself, and the critiques offered usually contain only vague words of praise. While some writing peers do offer helpful advice as to what they think is awkward, or wordy, or redundant, what I really crave is a nuts and bolts analysis of grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.
So, I awaited this particular critique with bated breath. When the envelope arrived, I ripped it open on the spot, ignoring the slight drizzle that misted the cool air. All three judges praised my fourth-place entry, pointed out what they loved, and said I was an excellent writer.
Disappointment flooded through me. I was hoping for little red notations all over my story. I wanted to know WHY I didn't take first place, and what I could have done to improve my writing. I wanted to know what I'd done wrong, as well as what I'd done right.
The only point of contention involved the title of my story. Two hated it; one loved it. I thought to myself, "This is it?" However, after rereading the three critiques and calming down in the process, I realized that I still appreciated the time and effort the judges put in for this contest. They would have read hundreds of entries, and it would be too time-consuming to nitpick their way through all of them.
Will I opt to receive another critique? Of course I will! The critiques did bolster my writing self-esteem, which can always use elevating. Each one did say, after all, that I was a good writer, and who doesn't like to hear that? I will continue to take advantage of critiques where they are offered, because any nugget of concrete advice, no matter how small, is invaluable. And frankly, the anticipation of receiving opinions/compliments on my writing is an irresistible lure!
Kim lives in the country with one needy dog, three perfect cats, one long-suffering husband, and far too many chickens. She tries to write on a regular basis after a suffering a writer's block of thirty years.
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