Critiques and Reviews Workshop

(Based on and expanded from ideas for a workshop in an online writing group from several years ago, with thanks and a hat tip to my friend, author Rob Read)

The intent of reviews/critiques is to benefit the writing, characters, plot – and thereby all of us as writers – not to criticize authors or their writing. The story/poem/essay/etc., is the focus, NOT the person who has done the writing. There’s a reason ‘critique’ is not spelled ‘criticism.’

Go to my new page ‘Critiques and Reviews Workshop’ for some thoughts on what makes for a good review experience, from and for both writers and reviewers. Of course correct spelling, grammar/syntax, and punctuation are givens, but there’s a lot more!

That Horn You Hear is Mine

Note: This is more a reminder to myself than blatant self-promotion.  It’s something of a written ‘selfie,’ I suppose, so read with that in mind, please.

I usually shy away from using the pronoun ‘I’ to start anything I write, but today I’m going to use it on purpose because I’m going to blow my own horn.

I do that even less than I start my work with … you know … but here’s why I’m doing both in this post: I’m a damn good editor.  There, both ‘I’s and the horn in one sentence.  In bold italics, too.  Wow!

I started thinking of this last week. I was in the hospital sleeping off (kind of) the general anesthesia I’d had earlier on Tuesday for a catheter ablation and, for some reason, I started thinking of all the people for whom I’ve served as editor.  Then I started to recall all the different projects they have shared with me.  This train of thought was inspired, I believe, by the teamwork of all the medical staff who worked on and with me for the procedure: the surgeon, of course, but also — and especially — the pre-op, OR, and post-op nurses and nursing assistants, the lab folks, the food service and housekeeping staffs, even the pre-op registrar.

We all need a team around us as we work — family, friends, colleagues to support and encourage us in our solitary writing times.  As an editor, too, I prefer to work as a team with each particular author.  I don’t, and won’t, work alone with another’s words.  I cannot presume to give voice to another’s words and vision on my own, and so I relish the opportunity to get to know each author, to communicate with her on a regular basis, to make suggestions for him to consider, to offer ideas for us both to try together.

As I thought of all the years I’ve done this editing gig — this work that I love, and all the people, all the projects and manuscripts I’ve worked with  — I realized that I am a team myself, too.  The majority of good editors are, and we have to be, but it’s according to a different definition of ‘team.’

This team knows how to edit Steampunk stories, vampire novels, poetry collections, humorous and spiritual memoirs, academic papers and dissertations, essays and other creative non-fiction, fantasy and mainstream short stories, even pastoral theology for the various intended audiences because I have written in all of these — and other — genres.  I know how to spell and punctuate according to British, Australian, Canadian and American customs from a lifetime of reading and studying a wide variety of world literature from the earliest of days to last week, along with the most up-to-date journals and manuals.   In other words, then, I am backed up by the sometimes-centuries of unseen writers who have gone before me, on whose shoulders I am privileged to stand, and what they’ve taught me.

I am beyond grateful.  I am also well aware that my own writing may not — and in some cases, does not — compare with some of the writers I’ve read over the years.  The important thing in my teambuilding, though, is that I’ve tried my hand at the different genres. I made it a point to stretch myself, sometimes going beyond my comfort zone (as when I wrote zombie and vampire stories), for my own benefit, but especially to improve my editing work.

That’s what teams do best: we encourage each other to reach beyond what is normal, what is usual.  I’ve found that because I’ve done so myself, I can do so for others as well.  Together, then, our work ensures my clients that their words are in good hands. They can entrust their words to me because I am a damn good editor.

How Do You Work Best?

Note: A short time after I posted this, I realized I’d already published it here with a different title.  I was going to take it down, but I received a comment or two immediately and decided to keep it up.  In the interim, I had the opportunity to read an article about something very similar, which bears out — and says better and in more detail — what I was trying to express.  The article can be found at NPR.com.  Look for the title ‘In a Digital Chapter, Paper Notebooks are as Relevant as Ever’ from May 27, 2015.  Be sure to read the comments, too!

Do you have or utilize different writing/creative processes for the different genres in which you write?

When I write poetry, for instance, I have to start and finish the first draft in longhand. Once I start refining a poem, I can do it on the computer – though it always seems better when I stick to pen and paper – but it always has to start with the physical process. The pen has to channel my images and thoughts onto paper. And I need silence. Lots and lots of silence, and no distractions.

When I write fiction, I usually start that same way, but then I can easily go to the computer or go back and forth between the two as I craft the final product. Again I need silence for this, but there can be the (very) occasional and short-lived distraction.

Creative non-fiction is the easiest to compose on the computer, for some reason. And I can work on something with other things going on around me.

I’ve always been intrigued at these differences. So here’s the question: How do you work best in your various genres and why?

Different Strokes

Do you have or utilize different writing/creative processes for the different genres in which you write?

When I write poetry, for instance, I have to start and finish the first draft in longhand. Once I start refining a poem, I can do it on the computer – though it always seems better when I stick to pen and paper – but it always has to start with the physical process of the pen channeling my images and thoughts onto paper. And I need silence. Lots and lots of silence, and no distractions.

When I write fiction, I usually start that same way, but then I can easily go to the computer or go back and forth between the two as I craft the final product. Again I need silence for this, but there can be the (very) occasional and short-lived distraction.

Creative non-fiction is easier for me to compose on the computer, for some reason. And I can work on something with other things going on around me.

I’ve always been intrigued at these differences. So here’s the question: How do you work best in your various genres and why?