Monday, June 24, 2013

When It's Not Okay To Share

by Susan J. Berger

I’ve belonged to several critique groups and I have learned and grown in each of them. I’ve  been present at the birth of wonderful stories and seen them bloom.

 
Susan, Kris, Hilde and Lupe sharing Hilde's COOKIES!
Since 2009 I have been with Pen and Ink and I LOVE my critique partners’ work. I love it so much that I wanted to share their brilliance with my friends.  In 2010 Lupe was revising Medicine Boy and the writing was so great that I shared it with a member of Lupe’s target audience .
My thirteen year old friend, Donovan, thought the opening chapter was great and wanted to read more. I jubilantly reported that fact to Lupe.
Lupe’s response was “Who is Donovan?”
I chilled when I read that because I suddenly realized I’d stepped over a boundary. I’d shared his work without his permission.
In the same case, I wouldn’t have minded a bit, but not everyone is like me. Big surprise.  Most writers prefer to choose what they share.  Perhaps some of you are like me and didn’t realize that sharing your delight in another writer’s unpublished work and or ideas is not a good thing to do.
So here is a revised Critique Group Manners list.

 
What happens in Critique Group stays in Critique Group.
Don’t share your fellow writer or illustrator’s ideas with your friends, or, on any internet forum.  This doesn’t mean you can’t share your own work, if you are so minded.

Giving a critique:

Kindness and Honesty are the key words.  The ability to say things in a constructive, positive manner is as important as honest feedback to improve a story.
  • Use the Critique Sandwich

  •  Tell the author what he has done really well.  Be concrete and specific.   Comments such as “This is a nice story ”  don’t help an author revise. Give the author an idea of what is really working for you as a reader. If there are lines you specially love, mention or highlight  them in the text.
  • Follow that up with suggestions on where you think the story might be improved.  Again - Be as specific as possible. It’s good to give an overall critique of a story, but marking areas within the body of the text that are confusing to you or that you feel may benefit from revision, allows the author to hone in on weak passages. (Especially if two people mark the same thing.)
  • End on a good note.  Reiterate what you loved. Encourage and support your fellow author.

Receiving a critique.

  • Listen!
  •  Sort through the comments, think deeply, and make decisions on how to revise your story.  You do not have to, nor is it wise, to take every piece of advice.  It’s your privilege to pick and choose from the suggestions offered.
  • You will probably want to explain why you did what you did, when receiving feedback.  Try to keep that behavior to a minimum. You will not get to explain to readers or reviewers why you wrote a particular sentence. The members of your group are your first reader/reviewers.
I welcome any suggestions to add to this manners list. I am sure there are things I haven't thought of. I mean, I am the one who didn't know it wasn't okay to share.

 
Happy Writing.

38 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. We are happy to see you.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathy. I am bummed that I am going to be in Kalamazoo when you have your book launch, but I will be one of your first purchasers. I can't wait.

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  3. Wonderful post, really helpful.
    I like how the info was presented, right to the point, succinctly.
    It's a good reminder for writers and teachers alike!

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    1. Thanks, Jackie. I appreciate your comment.

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  4. Thanks, Sue, I, too, get over zealous and want to share good stuff. I have to realize that if it's not mine to share, all I can do is praise and tell them they're going to love it when it's done and out there!

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    1. You aew right, but it's hard to remember sometimes. I've vowed to do much better.

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  5. All the tips you have given are really helpful. Thanks.

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  6. I would like to add Sue that as you rightly pointed out, since an idea cannot be copyrighted, we need to think of some way of protecting ideas, perhaps a critique group taking a Hippocratic Oath (I am joking)or starting a website where one can enter one's idea with a date stamp as a record. Far fetched but that's all I can think of now.

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    1. I don't know if that would work, but it's worth a try. I do know you cannot copyright an idea cause Sara Rutenberg told me so and since she's SCBWI's legal person, I believe her.

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  7. Hi, Sue,

    It's hard when someone in your group writes something soooooo great that you want to share it before it's published. Thanks for the reminder about being cautious and considerate. We need to save up our enthusiasms for book launch day then shout the greatness to the world. Hope you get a chance to do lots of shouting in your group! Judy

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  8. This is an interesting post. I never thought about 'sharing' within a critique group. I'd agree though, it's a no-no.

    Excellent advice on giving and receiving critiques!

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    1. Thanks, Karen for stopping by and for your comment.

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  9. Or not so much a "no-no" as "ask first before sharing with anyone outside the group."

    I love this one: "You will not get to explain to readers or reviewers why you wrote a particular sentence. The members of your group are your first reader/reviewers." I think that if more writers understood that, they'd become better writers almost instantly. NO EXCUSES, NO EXPLANATIONS. If it needs further explanation, you didn't do it right. If it explains so much the reader grows bored and puts the book down, you didn't do it right. Revise. Only the reader gets to explain things, and most won't or can't because you'll never meet them, so be grateful to the ones who do, no matter WHAT they say.

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    1. Glad you liked it Holly. It's so tempting to defend your writing during a critique.

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  10. Good to remember that the story is not ours to share because it is copyrighted by them as soon as they write it on paper. Just like you can't share copyrighted material without the author's attention, you can't share writing that's not yours without written permission.

    Thanks for the post.

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    1. Yes. "As soon as they write it one paper.."
      Then there is the fun thing when an idea comes into the air and two or more people catch the idea and write about it. No one stole anything. They all got the idea at the same time. I have seen this happen several times in the entertainment industry. It's a disconcerting thing.

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    2. I understand what you're saying. It's like all these ideas are out there and two or more people in different parts of the world latch onto them at the same time. That's why it's important to date your documents and perhaps print out the first copy.

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  11. "Lupe’s response was 'Who is Donovan?'"

    Sounds like Mr. Lupe is an uptight tightwad. I bet he has yet to publish that pile of paragraphs he calls a manuscript.

    Sincerely,
    Concerned Citizen

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    1. Lupe is a fabulous writer and I am sure it will be published, so nuts to you, concerned citizen,

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  12. I never thought about this before either, but yes it is very good advice. Some people are very sensitive about their work and while I'm not so much--I can see where it might get sticky. Thank you for this post and the rules of critque groups.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Billie!

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  13. Hi Sue--

    I think you summed up the politics of the situation precisely (at least for The Inkies). It's really easy to assume that sharing is good, because a writer wants readers, right? Always remember to ask is a good rule of thumb. Thanks for this!

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  14. Thanks for the reminder of using the sandwich method. Even though I try to remember to always use it in my critique group, I don't always do that.

    To my knowledge, no story that's gone through my critique group has been read to someone outside of it. I too think if that happens you should get the author's permission first.
    http://www.debhockenberry.com

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  15. All good advice! Thanks for sharing, Susan.

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    1. You are welcome, Kai. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  16. Susan: Nice post and good reminders, and there is nothing like a wonderful critique group. I hear my partners in my head all the time--and that is actually a good thing! HA!

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    1. I agree with you. My voices are saying you'd better have something to share next week and I DONT! (Guilt)

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  17. I just found the link to this great post on Clarabojahn's Blog. Thanks for this. I will be posting the link on my blog as well. Great reminders.

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