One of the requirements is to give feedback to our fellow classmates (who, aside from my critique partner, are all strangers to me writing every variety of fiction under the sun). I’m noticing what I think is an unhealthy trend and I’m not sure if I should give in to it.
The trend? My classmates are going really easy on their critiques, IMHO. As in ridiculously easy. Whereas they make a few minor corrections and heap praise on the writer, I bleed all over their pages, praising when it’s deserved, of course, but always leaving several suggestions or bullet points at the end of their piece.
Perhaps I’m a harder reader than most.
But really, what is the point of a critique? In my view, it’s to show someone what I think of what they’ve written. What resonates well and what doesn’t. Where I trip up, have questions, or wonder if they could make their words have more impact by swapping this for that. I don’t think the point of a critique is to tell the manuscript’s owner that aside from a few nit-picks, the story is great when it’s not.
I certainly want the hard critique. I may not always agree with the comments I receive, but I don’t want anyone to sugarcoat anything, either. That doesn’t help me. Besides, the purpose for putting my writing out there in its not-quite-finished form and opening it to critique is to make it good. Better. The Best.
You don’t become the best by writing drivel.
What also makes me leery about giving into the trend is that the class I’m taking is for seasoned writers who have done several intensive writing classes with a particular instructor, and she’s tough. She doesn’t pull any punches. Her students know this (and I will find this out for myself when I meet this her later this year in one of those intensive writing classes).
But should I hold myself as a critiquer to the same standard as our instructor? Should I go for the punches? Should I share with my fellow classmates my real and honest thoughts on their story? Or should I give it a 10-minute edit and offer lots of praise and let our instructor worry about being…well, a hard critiquer?
Should I try to help them become better writers or prop up their ego?
All of the Eight Ladies (and my critique partner) have read critiques from me, whether it’s line-level type edits or something more general. I am, I think (hope?), polite, but also direct and extremely thorough. My critique partner told me once that I critique hard and it took awhile for her to get used to it, but now she likes it that way.
I don’t suppose I should make the assumption that everyone likes a hard critique, though.
What do you think? Do you seek out the polite-but-honest-and-thorough critique from your classmates/critique partners or do you want a few obvious fixes and a bunch of praise? I’d like to know.