Saturday, April 13, 2013

Teaching Point: Critique


Critique Sheet
Evolved from Chapter 14 – Tell it Slant

Writers need feedback.  The myth of writers as loners who follow their vision and remain true to their inner muse, bucking rather than embracing outside help, is very much a myth…writers use one another unceasingly as idea sources and sounding boards.  Virtually all writers do.  “I write,” Terry Tempest Williams, “in a solitude born out of community.” TIS, Pg. 162

Remember always that as you give to others in your group, you will get back.  You have a deep commitment to their growth as writers and to the productive workings of the group as a whole, so always act accordingly.  Also, we often learn the most about our own writing while listening carefully to critique about someone else’s works.  What is true for that person struggling with a satisfying ending is probably true for you as well.  Don’t assume that the only time you learn anything is when your own piece is up for discussion.   TIS, Pg. 165

Do & Don’t: Pg. 165-166

  • Don’t use pointlessly critical language:  IE

  • Don’t be subjective or start talking about your own experience unless there’s a specific reason to, such as an expert knowledge you can add to the work at hand. 

  • When you give praise, do see if you can add even more to your comment by suggesting another place where the same writing tactics can help the essay.  Do provide revision suggestions freely, along with support and encouragement.  The other side of the workshop coin from the pick-it-all-apart session is the lovefest, which ultimately disrespects the writer’s ability to bring her work to a higher level, and do him no good. 

  • Do jot down the scenes, descriptions, and images that stick what you:  the “Velcro words and phrases,” as writer and teacher Sheila Bender put it.  Put the essay down and make note of the first thing you remember about it.  Generally these passages are the ones that not only are the best written, but the most key to what the essay is doing at a deep level.

  • Do identify the emotionally tones of the essay and its prose.  You may sense the pleasure of a friend’s visit, of a hike, the anxiety of sentences that all begin with, “I think, or “I believe.”  Do you get the sense of over formality in a phrase like “I am perturbed”?  Do you wonder why the author calls her mother by the definite article, “the mother”?  Does it feel somewhat chilly?  In all cases, are these feelings ones the author intended to convey, or do they seem unintentional and perhaps working against the movement of the essay?

  • Do identify your curiosity.  Make note of where specifically you want to know more. Which locations/characters would benefit from more description? Which characters’ voice do you want to hear?  Where do you want to know more about the author’s responses and feelings?  These curiosities help locate places for expansion. 

When you write well, revision becomes not a chore, but the essence of the writing act itself. 
~ TIS, pg. 158

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