Developing Critiquing Skills

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In my last blog, “The Importance of Critique Groups,” I discussed the importance of critique groups and how much they have helped me. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, scroll down and take a look!

Critique groups are important but they can be a waste of time or damaging to your self-esteem/writing if the people in the group don’t know how to provide critique and you don’t know how to receive critique. Here are some skills I had to learn over the years about giving and receiving critique.

  1. When giving critique, break it down into “What Works,” “What Needs Work,” and “Overall Summary” of your critique. This way you give equal importance to the things that you like about the piece and the things that you think could be improved.

  2. When giving critique, talk to the person by beginning your thoughts with “what I really like about this essay is...but I feel that if you tried …. it would make things more clear/interesting/funny/etc.” This way you are always beginning with something positive and the person being critiqued doesn’t feel like you are attacking them and gets defensive.

  3. When giving critique, be as open-minded as possible. When offering your perspective on things, try to see it from the writer’s perspective as well so that they know you are taking the time to understand what they are trying to do. This is especially important for memoir because the topics can be very personal to the writer. Again, do not make them feel like you are attacking their life and their writing.

  4. When giving critique be honest. Don’t lie to the person because you feel bad for them or are too scared to hurt their feelings. You will not help them become better writers by lying to them. On the other hand, there are ways to be honest without hurting people’s feelings. Learn them.

  5. When giving critique, be honest but don’t be judgement. There is a difference. Keep your personal opinions to yourself unless you are offering them in a positive/constructive way to help them grow as writers. This is especially true for memoir because people are baring all the intimate details of their lives to you. Do not judge them by how they have lived their lives. Judge only their writing and help them improve instead of tearing them down.

  6. When receiving critique, remember, this is not a critique of you as a person, it just a critique of your writing. Don’t take everything personally. Your critique group members are trying to help you get better at writing.

  7. When receiving critique, don’t be defensive. One of the techniques we practiced on critique days in my classes was that the person being critiqued is not allowed to say anything while they are being critiqued. Once everyone in the group is done offering their critique, they have the chance to clarify and explain themselves. I really liked this technique because it forced me to just shut up and listen to what people are saying instead of getting defensive and thinking about ways to refute what was said. Getting defensive is a waste of time and energy. You don’t have to prove anything to the people in your group. They are not writing your story.

  8. When receiving critique, know which critiques to keep and which to let go of. After you have quietly listened to everyone’s critique and taken notes, let the ideas float in your head for a few hours or a day or two before you actually begin revising the essay. When you have had time to mull over things, you might find that some critiques were more helpful than others so you keep some and drop the rest. After all, they are just opinions.

  9. When receiving critique, always take notes. I know this sounds obvious but I have seen so many people not take notes during critiques. There is no way you are going to remember everything everyone said. Also, when you write things down, you can go back to them later with a cool head and find inspiration in them.

  10. When receiving critique, make sure your critique group is a positive learning environment. It is difficult to find critique groups where you get the perfect balance of constructive criticism and encouragement. Make the effort to find such a group. You don’t want a group where everyone is too nice and afraid of hurting your feelings because that won’t help you become a better writer. However, you don’t want a group where everyone is just tearing you down to make themselves feel better about their writing. Take the time to find a critique group that builds you up as a strong and confident writer.

These are skills I developed over the years after a lot of practice and they have made me a better critique group member and a better writer/editor. I hope you found this information helpful.

Please share your critique group experiences (good and bad) and wisdom with me in the comments. I am always open to learning more critiquing skills!

Also, please share resources where others reading this blog can find good critique groups.

If you live in the Atlanta area, the Atlanta Writers Club has hundreds of critique groups based on genre all around metro-Atlanta so check them out here.

 

Thank you to all of you who continue to read my blogs every Wednesday and share your wisdom and experiences with me in the comments. I’m glad you find these useful!

 

Next Wednesday’s blog will be about how to be bold in your memoir writing.

 

Until then…

Happy Writing! :)

 

Find me on social media. Links at the bottom of the page 👇🏽

Finding Your Voice Part 2

Welcome!

This blog is a continuation of the previous blog so if you haven’t read Finding Your Voice: Part 1 yet, scroll down and check it out!

In this blog, I go more in depth with my issue of losing my (writing) voice and the techniques I used to help me deal with this challenge.

As I mentioned in the video, here are the Facebook writing groups that help me the most:

Memoir Writing

Writers Helping Writers

#Amwriting

Binders Full of Creative Nonfiction

Writer's Fight Club

Memoir writing group

Here is a link to the Writers Write website. I often use the writing prompts in their newsletters to help me get writing when I'm stuck.

If you need a more detailed list of the techniques or formats I use to help with voice, feel free to contact me through social media or email.

A huge THANK YOU to all of you who have been actively engaging with my blog posts here on the website and on all the Facebook groups listed above. You all keep me motivated to keep posting every week!

Stay tuned for next Wednesday's blog. We're going to talk about voice some more and I will be featuring a memoir writing teacher and her useful tips on how to find that unique and consistent voice in your memoir. 

Please comment below with how you have dealt with this issue or any questions/concerns you have for me. Also, please share this blog with anyone you think it might help!

Thank you for watching and reading my blogs!

Happy Writing! :)

 

Find me on social media. Links at the bottom of the page!

 

Finding Inspiration Part 2

Welcome (back)!

This blog is a continuation of the previous blog so if you haven’t read Finding Inspiration: Part 1 yet, scroll down and check it out!

In this blog, I’m going more in depth about the books I used for inspiration/research and how they helped (or didn’t help) me with my memoir writing process.

Here are all of the books I discuss in my video:

(The images are active links if you are interested in purchasing any of these books.)

Braving the Fire  by Jessica Handler

Braving the Fire by Jessica Handler

Invisible Sisters  by Jessica Handler

Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler

Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember  by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

Fresh Off The Boat  by Eddie Huang

Fresh Off The Boat by Eddie Huang

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter  by Scaachi Koul

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl  by Issa Rae

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

Born A Crime  by Trevor Noah

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Hunger  by Roxane Gay

Hunger by Roxane Gay

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me  by Sherman Alexie

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

As always, I hope you found this blog useful. I enjoyed sharing my process and inspiration with you.

Comment below with what books inspired and helped (or didn't help) you along your process. Also, let me know what topics you would like to see me discuss in the future.

I will begin 2018 with a blog on Finding Your Voice so stay tuned every Wednesday!

Again, thank you all for the love and responses on social media. I truly appreciate you all sharing your stories and struggles with me! I hope the new year brings great writing success for all of you.

Happy New Year and Happy Writing in 2018! :)

Find me on social media! Links at the bottom of the page.

Welcome!

My name is Ananya Vahal and I’m a writer. My genres include literary nonfiction, digital content creation, and comic books. Welcome to my first blog on ananyavahal.com! I created this blog to share my writing process with you all. I believe that as writers we are hesitant to share our process with each other. We are quick to tell each other when we get an agent or get a book deal but we don’t always share the writing struggles and triumphs that took us there. I want to change this trend and encourage all of you to share this insight with each other so we can build a stronger writing community and help each other along our paths as writers.

The project I’m currently working on is my memoir. I am finishing up my M.F.A. program in writing and this memoir is also my thesis. For this reason, I want my blog to focus solely on the process of memoir writing at the moment. When I began working on my memoir, I faced challenges that I never saw coming. After expressing these challenges to some of my fellow writers, I realized that they were also struggling with the same things. Some of these fellow writers and friends were brave enough to let me share their experiences and process with you all in my blog. I hope that sharing their stories will help broaden the perspectives provided in my blog and encourage all of you to share your own experiences in the comments on my blog page.

In this video, I go into more detail about why I started this blog and what my upcoming blogs will focus on. I will post a blog every week on Wednesdays and I hope you will join me in my writing journey. Enjoy the video!