We are continually reminded of our imperfections. No matter what we do, someone always tells us how we did it wrong or how we can improve on it. As writers, we live our life learning from our imperfections. In other words, we learn from critiques. Some of us are lucky enough to be part of critique groups that help us polish those imperfections in our efforts to get published. We sign up to read and during one night, we get over 20 critiques of our writing. Listening to other authors explain what needs tweaking is a painfully valuable experience as any author will tell you. Reading our manuscripts in front of a group of writers can be nerve-wracking, but once it's over, we realize it wasn't so bad, and as a matter of fact the information we get moves us one step closer to our dream – publication.
The read-alouds are quick critiques, but contest entries are the ones that take longer. If you ever judged a contest or been the recipient of a judged-manuscript you know it takes more time to respond to one. You have a score sheet, written comments, and if you are lucky the judge placed comments on your actual manuscript.
I came up with an idea – why not have a mini-critique with a shortened form that is used for the contest entries and yet a bit more formal than a meeting critique with has no real format?
Here's what I see as possible: before the mini-critique session each author should fill out a form that outlines important information for the reader.
- Time period
Mechanics – what needs work the most?
Opening hook – did you want to read on?
Hero – Do you get a sense of the hero and is he sympathetic?
Heroine – Do you get a sense of the heroine and is she sympathetic?
GMC – goal, motivation, conflict – Are the clear for both the hero and heroine?
Use of dialogue – is the dialogue used to move the story along?
Setting – do we get a clear sense of the setting and time period?
POV – is the point of view clear and is there the transition clear?
Just as in a contest, these categories can be given a point value – from 1-5 with 5 being the highest. If the readers can fill this out quickly and just add a few comments before the actual critique session, the author would get a better sense of what is missing.
If we had this type of format for mini-critiques, then when it came time to submit for a contest or to an editor or agent, we would be better prepared for the comments on our imperfections.
Oh, and one final note on our imperfections – some of them, just some of them, are what make our writing unique. Some of them people love. Some of them people hate. In the end, you have to decide which imperfections you want to fix and which ones you want to keep.