“Critiquing” is not “Editing”
A reader writes about a problem she is having with a friend who is critiquing her manuscripts.
. . . whenever I use personification, alliteration, or any sort of figurative language, [the friend] edits it out. We have two very different styles, and I’m wondering if she is right in editing my work so drastically that it changes the style, or if my style is really far too “flowery”, as she puts it.
Critiquing is not the same as editing. If the friend is “editing drastically,” the result is no longer a critique but a rewrite.
The chief purpose of a fiction critique is to enable the writer to improve a manuscript by getting rid of unnecessary exposition, character inconsistencies or pointless dialogue. Thoughtful critiques from other writers can help the writer focus on essentials. What exactly is the writer’s purpose? Who is the protagonist? What does the protagonist want? Does each chapter advance the plot?
I belong to a writing critique group. Everyone in it has a different style and different preferred genres. We also have various pet peeves relating to grammar, spelling and idiom. However, individual style is something we are very careful about respecting.
For one thing, different genres call for different language.
For another, every writer must develop a distinctive voice. A writer’s voice may include some “flowery” language.
We respect style, but that’s not to say that we avoid commenting on language we feel is inappropriate or over the top. We make suggestions, but we don’t presume to edit unless we are asked to. It’s always up to the author to accept or reject any comments or objections.
To the writer being critiqued I say: It’s your voice. It’s helpful to have others read our work and comment on structure, story line, believability–that kind of thing. We do not profit from readers who want to rewrite our work to their own specifications.
Critiques should be honest in pointing out plot weaknesses, omissions, and other flaws, but they shouldn’t attempt to recast the author’s work according to the reader’s vision.
In submitting your work for critique it’s a good idea to be specific about the type of feedback you want. If your reader’s comments are consistently hypercritical and make you feel bad, get another reader.
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