Friday, July 2, 2010

Playing the Games

Re: Critique Partners/Beta Readers
The best critique is almost useless if it does not activate the writer's internal critic. This can be done by acknowledging the writer has not been wasting his time, that there is something good on the page, which cannot be denied...a good reader empathizes with the writer's vision, sees beyond the words to what the writer is trying to achieve with those words. Good readers ask questions and make writers see where they have succeeded and where they have failed. And most of all, good readers make you want to write.
~ Barry Lane (from Discovering the Writer Within)



Critiquing is a pretty common topic around the blogosphere, because we can approach it from so many different directions. In Discovering the Writer Within I came upon an interesting way to look at our work - a new way to play the beta reader game.

Barry Lane shares a strategy of Peter Elbow:
To be good critics, writers must learn to play both the believing game and the doubting game when they look at their work. The believing game has to do with basic faith that you have something to say. The doubting game is about questioning the effectiveness of your writing.
Cool, huh? But wait...there's more!

Barry adds that,
A big mistake young writers make is seeking out readers and critics before they are ready to stop playing the believing game. The best criticism from a skillful reader will only offend or discourage if you are not ready to distance yourself from a piece of writing and play the doubting game.
I like the simplicity, yet dead-on truth, of this philosophy. Too often, we aren't ready for real feedback; we still need the basic reassurance to keep going, the assurance it's going to be worth it. We have to be emotionally geared for the criticism BEFORE we ask for it, or it won't be as valuable to us.

Do you skillfully play both the Believing Game and the Doubting Game?

31 comments:

Terri Tiffany said...

Excellent way to put this! I believe I'm doing what I should when I give my work to my critque partners and want it to be critiqued so I can make my message better. Just sent it to Beta readers and I hope the feedback there will also help me improve it--that's what is it all about--getting our message out there the best way we can.

Jen said...

I would say I play both sides equally I am nice enough to share all the good things about the piece and careful to say all the things wrong. I don't want anyone to feel awful when they walk away but you also don't want them keeping something in their novel that isn't helping them, in the long run it's only hurting them!!!

So give your friend a virtual hug, send them some virtual ice cream and share the truths!

Diane said...

Good things to think about. Thanks for sharing! :O)

Hardygirl said...

I like this. It's definitely way past time for me to look at my WIP with doubt.

Here's my problem--my fabulous beta is dragging her heels. I know people get busy (she is) and that it is a lot to ask of someone (it is) . . . but I really need to get back to work on this thing! Frustrating!

sf

Aubrie said...

Wow, very interesting and very true. You have to be ready for criticism. And you have to believe in your work and judge it at the same time.

salarsenッ said...

The first sentence on that first quote should be framed. Perfect!! Enjoy your weekend, Shannon.

Valerie Geary said...

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Stephanie McGee said...

Hadn't thought of it this way before. Thanks for the post.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Very interesting! I never really thought of it that way.

I hope you have a great holiday weekend!!

Michelle Gregory said...

i play the game, but not sure how good i am at it.

Tara said...

Excellent post! Very true.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I am a beta reader so I know both sides of this very well. I used to play the self doubt vs. the take the critique with both a grain of salt and with my emotions detached so I could be objective.
Now, when I beta I make sure to give both ample praise to dead truth. And hope that my reader is objective upon return. Great post AND I have an award for you tody! Have a fab weekend :D

KarenG said...

This sounds like a really good writing book! I want to add it to my to-read list. Thanks for the review and the quotes! I loved that first one especially.

Lynn said...

I'll be thinking about this when I submit my next piece for critique. In school, I have no problem playing the doubting game because I want the criticsm to become a better writer--that's why I paid for the course! I'm going to add this book to my to read list too.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I think this is really sound advice. I can see how young/new writers need that encouragement along with the criticism. For me, I've been doing it long enough to believe in my work, thus I'm more about the doubting game.

Mary Aalgaard said...

No. I think I share my work too early, which does dampen the fire to keep going.

Palindrome said...

I think that if you're offering up your work to be read and critiqued, odds are you're ready. And it's not like you can't just keep writing. I use whatever tips I get on earlier chapters to make the forthcoming ones that much better. It'll make the rewrite interesting in the beginning. :)

Mary Campbell said...

I need to build up some of that believing stuff again and start working on my novel. I've struggling with whether or not it's worth it.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love this idea - believer and doubter. Perfectly describes it! :)

Catherine A. Winn said...

Great post! I like the mixture of both, however I'm now at the stage where I want my critiquers to be blunt and not try to soft soap anything. I found this attitude sharpens my writing skills.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love this! With my first book I had a lot of early readers just to give me plot feedback and be my cheerleaders.

For Book #2 I'm keeping it under wraps until it's as shiny as I can get it without extra eyes.

Either way, I love getting critiques. The more red ink, the better!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Those are great quotes! Emotionally ready--I think we need that for ALL stages of this process!

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks, Shannon! I have critiques coming in right now, and this is so true.

Carolyn V. said...

What a great post! I totally play the believing game and the doubting game.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post! I never thought of it that way before, but it's so true. Fortunately I do both. :D

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Love this! It's so true. Where do you find your wonderful quotes? And they always apply.

My writers group is awesome. Most of the time when they see something isn't working they try to help me come up with something that will either that or their suggestions will trigger an answer.

It's always a good idea to share your work with people who are in your corner. Then once you have your legs beneath you, branch out to others.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I agree that being emotionally ready is really important. Wonderful insight.

Heather said...

This is one of the wisest posts I've read in a long time. Too many people aren't ready for criticism when they ask for beta readers. I've reached the point where I'm pretty hard on myself but it took a lot to get to the there.

cleemckenzie said...

I am so doubtful about what I share with my readers, but I trust their ability to find those gems and point out the clunkers. By the time I review their comments I'm back to believing. I must have excellent critics and how luck is that?

Love this idea. Thanks for posting it.

E. Arroyo said...

This is so true. We have to be emotionally prepared for the critic. Which is why I let my family read it first!
Great post.

Mary McDonald said...

There were times when I wasn't ready to play and a critique made me doubt my ability, instead of just doubting that particular piece and how it was crafted. Great post.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...