by Sonne T. Hart on February 27, 2011

Critique is a pretty sounding French word that means the act or art of criticizing. Criticize, on the other hand is not so pretty sounding, it normally makes us aware we’ve done something questionable. I’ve always heard, “It’s not what you say, but the way you say it.”

As a beginning writer, living in Kansas City, MO, I joined a writers group, called MARA, (Mid-America Romance Authors). MARA is a regional chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). By doing so, I was made aware of different writing and/or critique groups in my area. These groups had been formed to help writers in all stages of writing, from beginners to published authors. The groups decided on a day every week to meet and the meeting took place at different member’s homes. I was very timid, make that scared out of my mind, to attend my first meeting. It took place at MARA member Sandy Marshall’s house.

There were several writers there, some younger, some older, some unpublished and some published, one of whom was quite well known. Many of you know or know of Carla Cassidy, who has at this date published eighty (80) books. Carla was the guest speaker and I was intimidated. There were four other girls there that night who later became my friends as well as critique members. We took turns reading a page of something we had written. When my turn came, my hands were shaking, and I was surprised when words actually came out of my mouth. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest hour, my characters didn’t jump off the page like I wanted them to, my commas weren’t in the right place, and I told the story, instead of letting the characters do the job.

“Show, don’t tell,” became my mantra. If by now you’re wondering what that quote means, I’ll try to explain. Let the characters show the story in dialog, because too much narration (telling) bogs down the story. That’s it in a nutshell. For all you beginners out there, if you don’t remember anything else, please remember this bit of advice. Show it, don’t tell it.

I learned that if critique or criticizing was delivered with kindness, it made us writers aware of things we could change or fix. Usually these changes made the dialog plainer, the setting more authentic, or the story more real. Yes, oft times critique is a necessary tool, one that opens our eyes to other possibilities. My critiques buddies became fast friends, and I learned so much from each of them and my writing began to improve. So, thanks to all of you, Willie, Sandy, Lesley and Elizabeth.

A big thanks also, to Carla Cassidy who is a great teacher. I attended one of her writing classes at the local college while living in KC. Her advice I took to heart and it made me a better writer. To learn more about Carla, click here.
In closing I want to let you know, that two of my critique buddies, Willie Arrowood and Sandra Marshall both are published authors. You can find out about them and their books, for Willie, click here and for Sandy click here.


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