Question: Do you, and should you, critique the work of other writers for “free”?

Welcome.

The topic for today’s rolling blog tour: Do you critique for free?

It’s a thought provoking question and I thought about it all day while tackling the carpet of weeds passing for my back garden these days.

First, I believe critique from another writer (or six) is an essential part of the creative process. Thoughtful, skilled critiquing is a gift writers share with each other. Beta readers also provide valuable feedback for story improvement.

Second, the word “free” suggests a monetary connotation. I’ve never charged anyone money for a critique – the notion never crossed my mind. I also cannot recall an instance where a request for money might have been an appropriate response. I have declined to read and critique work due to personal time constraints. On the other hand, I have paid for three professional editor critiques, all through writer conferences. I also plan to hire a professional editor at some point after I revise and polish my manuscript and before I submit to agents and publishers.

Third, I believe all professionals have an obligation to mentor and give back to their community (within reason of course). Therefore, I am open to helping beginning writers – with the caveat that they are open to helping themselves. Earlier this year, I joined with two other writers, Andrea Walker and Ronda Payne to form Golden Ears Writers. The Maple Ridge Arts Centre and Theatre (The ACT) kindly offered meeting space in their lobby and for several months now, Ronda and I have facilitated a bi-monthly critique group. This fall we are expanding to monthly writer education and networking events. We volunteer our time and, so far, the experience has been rewarding in a myriad of non monetary ways.

Fourth, in my opinion reciprocal critiquing is invaluable. I belong to several critique groups. In my experience, the best advice comes from fellow writers who actively work to improve their craft – no matter their level of experience or publishing history.

Fifth, effective critiquing is both an art and a skill. Many writers are afraid to offer an opinion on the work of others. However, I find everyone has something valuable to contribute, as long as they keep two words in mind: honest and constructive.

Some final notes:

This month, I am taking a workshop through Savvy Authors titled “The Four Point Critique”. It is taught by Teresa Bodwell. The cost is reasonable and I highly recommend the class.

I also recommend Becky Levine’s book The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback

Now, I am interested to hear your thoughts about critiquing the work of fellow writers. Please leave a comment below.

I also invite you to read the opinions of my fellow blog tour writers. Visit Kathleen Kaska’s blog next and if you haven’t already, take a few minutes to check out the rest of the blogs on the tour. They are all linked below.

Kathleen Kaska http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com/2011/08/do-you-critique-for-free.html

 

Tour Leader: Nancy Lauzon http://chickdickmysteries.com/blog-6/

Mollie Cox Bryan http://www.molliecoxbryan.com/2011/08/bleeding-heart-do-i-critique-for-free/

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. KT,

    You raise some thought provoking points, well done. Compared to you I sound like a mercenary, LOL, but that’ s okay. I think it’s great that you’re mentoring. Critique groups are invaluable, I have a critique partner, and I don’t know what I’d have done without her.

    Nancy
    http://chickdickmysteries.com

    • We just came at the subject from different perspectives Nancy. I wrote about critiquing in general and you wrote about writers who take advantage. I think you make some excellent points.

      KT

  2. I was thinking the same thing Nancy! I sound like a mercenary, too! I think both of you have valid points and we all need to do what’s comfortable for each one of us, given out individual life situations. (Whew, that was a mouthful. heh.)

    • I don’t think either of you sound mercenary, just practical. I think I needed a sixth point about balance.

      KT

  3. I will have to read Becky Levine’s book. I can always use help with self-editing. Let us know how the Savvy Authors workshop went.

    • I’d also recommend Elizabeth Lyon’s book Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  4. I am a successful product of 21 years of an excellent critique group. I’m sure I would never have been pubbed without both the support, encouragement, and constructive critique I have received, and still do.
    The most difficult critique to provide occurs when you don’t agree with or dislike the content. How do you separate your subjective reaction to the piece from useful guidance? Ideas?

    • That’s a tough one, Julie.

      Within the limits of kindness and honesty, I critique what I can. If I am unable to separate my feelings from an aspect of the critique, I simply don’t comment on that aspect. There is generally something to say.

      A good critique group will encompass a variety of perspectives and tastes. Hopefully, in these instances, others will fill in the critique gaps.

      It’s a good question. Does anyone else have a suggestion?

      KT

  5. I’ve paid for the services of a professional writing coach and editor, but wouldn’t charge anyone myself. Yes, my time is valuable to me, but if I don’t have the time, I politely decline. Being asked to critique for a fellow writer, whether in a group or as an individual, is like being asked to help a friend or neighbour, and who expects remuneration for that?

    Critiquing is also, as you’ve mentioned, an opportunity to give back … a reaching out to assist newer writers, in appreciation for those more experienced ones who have helped me. We’re all on the same ladder, just on different rungs.

    For me, the question is more about who is qualified to critique. I’ve noticed occasional writers online (some published, some not) offering their paid editing services and, judging by spelling and grammar errors on their websites, I wonder why. I’d want to follow up references from their clients before believing they should receive a fee for their work, but I shudder to think of how many novices are duped into paying for less than helpful advice.

    • Hi Carol,

      I love the imagery in this sentence “We’re all on the same ladder, just on different rungs.”

      I believe there are professional associations for editors. That might be a good place to start, when checking credentials.

      KT

  6. I review other writers for free. In fact, I accept submissions of short excerpts on my blog for exactly that purpose. Check out: http://www.brianwfoster.com if interested.

    Thanks.

    Brian

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