Isn’t it funny how a group of smart, intelligent like minded people can get together and all have differing opinions about so many things?
This is true of so many different subjects ranging from politics, religion and even convictions on food intake. There is the obvious difference of republican vs democrat, liberalism vs conservatism. Religious difference can range from Catholic to Protestant, Christian to Muslim, to petty doctrinal issues such as when the tribulation will occur and are we really once saved always saved? Some people believe that no meat should enter your mouth, and others who scarf down every steak and hot dog in sight.
Is there a right and a wrong? Are there ways to agree to disagree? On some of these issues, yes, on others, no. There are many who take the ‘do not offend’ route and say you need to accept everyone’s viewpoint as valid and practice tolerance. In some ways, I agree. If you want to eat vegetables and tofu, then have at it! If you want to eat a big juicy steak, more power to you. I really don’t care when you think the tribulation occurs (except for the one preacher I heard of that told his congregation that it was no big deal to get a 666 put on their forehead or hand, God promised to come before that so it couldn’t be the anti-christ if that happened… I draw the line there on my tolerance). I don’t care if you think you are always saved, or if you have to keep repenting, as long as you are living for Jesus. That’s what counts.
There are other issues that I am slightly more passionate about. My political views are one, but this too I think at the end, we can agree to disagree. Some of my good friends believe quite differently than me, and we still get along. We do have some great spirited debates (all in good fun though!). I will defend the doctrine of Jesus Christ till my death. I will also defend certain issues I am passionate about (anti-abortion, among others).
As writers, we also find this predicament. We are a body of people dedicated to the written word, all of our perspectives shaped by those who have mentored us, befriended us, and raised us from birth. The books we read have also influenced us. Every experience we have had shapes us into the person we are today. An executive coach I met with for a while called this our ‘Mental Mindset’. We all have a set of assumptions that are different.
This would be why, when in a critique group, we all have different opinions. One person loves the chapter, another thinks it needs something added. One person thinks a sentence is great, another thinks it’s confusing. One person likes alot of narration, another is all about the dialogue. Add to that the different preferences in voice and dialogue, you get a mixture of many different opinions all in one big pot.
A few posts ago, I wrote about the importance of a critique group to a writer, and I still believe that is true. Each person in your critique group brings to the table a different mindset, a different viewpoint. There is no ‘right’ way or or ‘wrong’ way in many cases. It is the author’s job to take all the feedback given, and figure out what fits their voice. They also decide which idea’s are marketable and what ones are not. Some suggestions may take away the author’s voice, and other’s may enhance it. This is the author’s job to figure out the difference.
I love my critique partners! They are all so different and all bring such a different view to the plate. I don’t always agree, but it stretches my mind to see beyond my own mental mindset. The key to a successful critique group is 1.) Make sure you can work well with your partners. 2.) Always be kind! 3.) View the critiques given to you with an open mind 4.) Don’t be offended at criticism and lastly 5.) Whatever you do, be true to your own voice.
In my own critique group, we have 4 different genre’s represented, so are four very differing viewpoints. For me, it is great to get great feedback from such a diverse group, but also makes it a challenge critiquing their work, to make sure I get outside my own assumptions about writing in my genre, and stretch myself in order to be of assistance to my fellow critiquers.
Do you have any other pointers for working with critique partners? Do you have any critique group success stories? Any critique groups that were not so helpful… let’s nots not put other’s down but we can learn from negative experiences too!