Critiques and Ducks

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Another week ending and I come home again with duck blood on my pants! Thankfully, we were able to stabilize this one. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to do something for his injuries.

Tis the season for duckies to pair up for spring – which means it’s also the season for mallard-car interactions as our webbed-footed friends waddle about the place looking for nesting sites. Most ducks and geese are monogamous, so once they pair up they stick together. I’m sure we’ve all seen a piteous living duck beside the road, trying to stay near their dead mate after an accident. For human safety as well as bird safety, don’t forget to watch carefully while you’re driving, especially near wetland areas. Remember – they’re short, and there are always two of them!

OK, on with the show! I haven’t made very much writing progress this week – only about 1500 original words. I’m not unhappy about that though; I’ve been critiquing a friend’s manuscript. I always learn something from critiquing, so I count it as work towards my own writing goals.

Critiquing is a strange animal, and it does not come naturally with writing (or even knowing a lot about writing). I’m trying to improve my own critiquing skills; I want to be as helpful as possible to my group. I can usually identify where something doesn’t seem right, but it is very difficult to uncover the root of the problem.

It is getting easier for me as I learn more and more about writing. Right now, I’m reading a book called The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide by Becky Levine. It isn’t as detailed as some of the other writing books I’ve read, but it does help tie reactions in the reader with possible story problems. I have not finished reading it, but so far I’d recommend it to anyone who needs to learn or polish critique skills.

Communicating what you see can be a bigger challenge than identifying the problem, especially for me. I tend to be a very task-focused problem-solver type, which means “finding problems” while I’m critiquing. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to receive feedback, so I must work very hard to be sure I am being sensitive, especially since I tend to focus on the problems above the good stuff.

Realizing this also helps me distance myself from negative comments about my own work. Even if it is difficult to hear, my alpha readers are doing their best to help me. The more I listen to experienced authors the more I accept that every story, by every author, in ALL of history has problems at first – and it is no big deal. I can fix it!

Revision is part of the process. We writers own computers and word processors. If we were afraid of hard work, we wouldn’t have written the book in the first place. We’re creative, we’ll solve the problems eventually. The thing about creativity is that you are only limited by yourself – the well will never run dry as long as you are open-minded to change. Amazing books are made by people who are willing to visit that well until the story is right.

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