Earlier last month, I sent my beloved Work in Progress through it’s first round of critiques. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the critiquing process from my own experience and the thoughts of others. I have two groups of people who do my crits. Karen is my lovely dedicated critiquer. I will see all of her story and she sees all of mine. She is the one I will ask about the things I want to expand for my second draft. My other group, Mud Puddle, has a chapter exchange system that means the same people will not always read your chapters. The way I have things worked out, each of my chapters gets three sets of eyes looking at it.
First of all, I think you have to go in understanding that people really want to help you make your story better. Some of the things they point out will be harder to take than others. Some suggestions you will disagree with, some will make you wonder why you didn’t think of it first. Some of the hardest feedback you get will be what you need the most. I ultimately feel it’s good practice for having an editor go through you stuff, because they will be both an amazing supporter and the toughest judge. Or you know, getting your entire story rejected by an editor or agent. If you feel like you are in a group that isn’t trying to help but play the “I’m proving my story is better than yours” then you’re in the wrong group. Luckily, I don’t have that issue.
Another thing to keep in mind is what the other person needs you to look at. If they want a beta to look at plot and characters of a first draft, you will both go crazy if you do a line edit instead. I’ve also found that some writers are very sensitive to the language you use in comments. They want you to say “the story might benefit from this” instead of “I see you wrote this…” To them the use of “you” feels like a judgement on them while other writers feel that addressing the writer is building a relationship. Some want you to suggest grammar changes, others tell you to just put the comma where it should be but turn on track changes. If you have a preference, let your reader know up front!
Another thing to note, in a big enough group, writers may be at different points. I’m lucky enough to have published writers in my Mud Puddle group. I’ve also seen writers who are writing their first drafts of their first books. Others are in between. Everyone can contribute something. Even if you feel like another chapter is more advanced than yours, don’t let that intimidate you. Let the other reader know what you liked and why, keep an eye out for inconsistencies or things you want to know more about.
I hope this helps some of you out there!