Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Extra Eyes

A popular post from August 2011

by Annette Lyon

Last Saturday was the first ever Precision Editing Group live critique workshop. Each of the five senior editors had a table of writers, and we spent the day reading pages aloud and helping one another improve.

(We also got a picture taken of the five of us, which you can see in the sidebar. Left to right: Lu Ann Staheli, Heather Moore, Julie Wright, me, and Josi Kilpack.)

I had a great group of writers at my table. Here we are (I'm third from the left):

We had a great time. By the end of the day, I felt that everyone at my table had a solid direction to go with their books. They knew what worked (our table was great at pointing out strengths!), what didn't quite hit the mark, and best of all, they came away know knowing why certain parts didn't land and they knew how to make their work better.

I led the discussion, but I wasn't the only one talking. Everyone got to comment on everyone else's work, and I believe they all learned something from the three elements of the day:

1) Taking a critique from others.
Learning to accept a critique helps a writer build a thicker skin and lets you view your work more objectively. It's easy to get so close to your story that you can't see what's good and what's not so good without stepping back. The best way I've found to get that distance is through receiving outside feedback.

2) Giving a critique to others.
When you put on the editor hat and must actively look at someone else's work through that lens, you're working a different creative muscle. If you're like me, you'll discover things about writing that you didn't know before. You'll see something that works well (or doesn't), and then you have to articulate why. Also, sometimes I'll see a problem in someone's work, and only then do I realize that I do the very same thing.

3) Watching other people critique a third person's work.
When different perspectives and different skill sets are put into action in front of you, you may get some of the best writing education of your life. I've had more light-bulb moments watching members of my critique group help each other than in almost any other way.

I've learned huge amounts from all three critique ways, and I believe that my table did, too, even though we had just one day together.

Kudos to the five writers at my table. Your willingness to both learn and give was inspiring, and I was impressed with your work. Keep at it!

If you haven't had this type of critique experience, find one. Joining my critique group in January of 2000 was the single best thing I did for my writing. My skills jumped ahead light years in a matter of months.

I'm sure we'll have more writing workshops in the future. Be sure to watch for any announcements, because you won't want to miss out.


Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Great summary of what we ALL learned at the live critique workshop. Like you, I had fabulous writers at my table, and I expect I'll see their names on the front covers of books in the future.

Donna K. Weaver said...

You were a great DI, Annette. I love these opportunities because I learn so much. Your class at Storymaker was one of my favorites, and I wasn't disappointed on Saturday.

Rhonda Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhonda Miller said...

Saturday's workshop was very valuable for me as well. Lu Ann, you're amazing. I appreciate your willingness to share you talent and skill. Sometimes I lose confidence (and steam) in regard to my writing, so it was very motivating to see "Beautiful!" written at the top of my manuscript by you.I'm working on changes right now,in fact, and would love to ask you a few questions. Would it be appropriate to contact you via e-mail?

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Absolutely! I meant to put my email address on the manuscripts and forgot until we were all done. Oops! Luann staheli gmail. You know the drill. ;-)

Anonymous said...

The workshop was very helpful. Thank you, ladies!

Rebecca said...

I am so happy for the opportunities you guys have out there. Someday, if I ever move to UT, I'm signing up for something like this!

Elham Norouzi said...

Thank you for posting such a great article!
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