One of the reasons why I wanted to attend the Paris Writers Workshop was because I wanted to see if my writing was up to par. I knew it wasn’t perfect and I needed to know exactly what I needed to work on. I am thankful I went. Each student in the Craft of Fiction class I attended, got a chance to get their story critiqued by the students and the teacher. It was worth it.
Getting critiqued is a gift.
I suggest getting your work read by a couple of people you know and trust and then let strangers read it. There is something amazing about having people you don’t know read and critique it. As much as mom and dad loved your story, chances are, a stranger will give you a more honest feedback. And that’s the point. You want and need honest feedback. A writer’s group or a writer’s workshop is a good place to meet people who will be willing to read and critique your work.
Here is why I think getting your writing critiqued is a gift:
- No matter how many times you think you’ve read and edited your work, you can still miss things.
- Different people spot different things. One person may notice a typo and another one won’t. Pay attention to each feedback.
- Different people can also spot the same things. This is really interesting. If you notice a few people commenting on the same thing, it probably means you need to do some rewriting. Again, pay attention to each feedback.
- Not all suggestions apply. If one person says to delete a specific line, but the rest of the group says it works, including you, then don’t delete it.
- Keep your target audience in mind when getting feedback. For instance: You’re writing women’s fiction and one person says, “he doesn’t get it” but the women of the group say “they get it”, then you can probably ignore the suggestion. Use your best judgment.
- There are things that are clear to you as the writer, but vague to the reader. Getting critiqued will help point these out.
- Ask questions. What is it about your story that you feel needs help? Is there a specific dialogue/character/chapter you’re not sure of? This is the time to get answers.
- Whatever you learn from each feedback is new knowledge you can apply to any of your stories.
Remember that the people critiquing your work are there to help you—not attack you. Listen to all suggestions and comments before responding. This was a great technique our teacher, Christopher Tilghman used that I think we benefitted from. If it was our story being discussed, we were not allowed to respond until after all suggestions/comments were said. Listening carefully first, instead of responding immediately gave us a better understanding of our work and how we could improve it.
I truly enjoyed our class and I appreciate every feedback I received. I was lucky to be part of such a diverse group of people. Each one had a story to tell. Each one was unique and memorable.
Getting critiqued is both terrifying and satisfying. By the end of it, you become a better writer.