A Year in the OWG

23 Aug

August marks the one-year point of my joining the Kelley Armstrong Writers Forum.  Kelley has created this marvellous place for us writers to hang out in, to exchange information and techniques.  I cannot express enough gratitude for her investment in the concept.

One of the things we do in the OWG is critique each other’s work.  It’s an interesting and enlightening concept.  So far this year I have had the privilege of beta- reading two novels written by fellow OWG’ers – Ken and Anne – two novels I’m sure will land on the bookshelves.  It’s exciting, being a part of the creative process.  I appreciate the confidence they had in me, in sharing their work and trusting the feedback I gave them.  It’s not easy, handing over your project for someone to review.

I’m better at critiquing than I was a year ago.  Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way:

 Arm yourself with knowledge.  You can’t give advice if you don’t understand the mechanics of writing.  So read a few textbooks, study up on the subject.  It will make you a better critiquer, and writer, too.

Leave your ego at the door.  It’s just your opinion.  The author ultimately has the final say.

Remember your agenda.  Having a bad day?  Don’t take it out on the writer.  Maybe you don’t like their work, but you don’t need to be rude or cruel.

Take the high road.  If you feel someone has gone off the deep end critiquing your post, you don’t need to retaliate with a scathing review of their work.

Three is enough.  If someone is repeatedly making the same error, point out three examples – and stop.  They will either get the point, or not.

Give what you want to receive.  If you do a half-hearted review, that’s what you’ll get back – if you’re lucky.   You might just get completely ignored.

It’s not your homework.   Offer suggestions or examples, but you’re not here to rewrite someone else’s novel.  Save this for your kids, but they’ll probably fail the final exam if you do their homework for them.

No deletes, please.  If you think something should be deleted, then mention it – but don’t alter the original document.  Would you like it if a random stranger suddenly decided to give you a haircut?

Find something to love.  Maybe you don’t like the genre, or the style, but you can find some things that are working.  Point them out.

Wander by Newbie Island, now and then.   Remember your first few months there?  Make a new friend.

Now what other points would you add to this list?

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16 Responses to “A Year in the OWG”

  1. Anne Michaud August 24, 2011 at 7:25 AM #

    Happy OWG one year birthday, Di:)

    I’m privileged to have had your crit to guide me through this rewrite – a simple ‘thank you’ will never seem enough for all the work you’ve put in.

    Greats tips for critting, too!!

    • jdwaye August 24, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

      It never feels like “work” when it’s a great read!

  2. T. James August 25, 2011 at 7:48 PM #

    I joined OWG a month ago, and I completely agree with your assessment of the forum.

    I’m still new to critiquing, and your ‘pocket guide’ has plenty of really solid pointers to help us newbie’s along the way. Thanks for the advice.

    • jdwaye August 26, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

      Thanks for dropping by, TJ. Some of these tips I learned the HARD way. LOL!

  3. Angela Addams August 25, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

    Excellent points! And Happy One Year!

    I don’t have anything more to add since you’ve summed it up really well! Great post and also very useful reminders for some of us old dogs…

    • jdwaye August 26, 2011 at 5:26 PM #

      Thanks Angie! Rebels rock!

  4. CDNWMN August 25, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

    Great reminders and happy 1st bday! (cause it ain’t like you’ll ever hear THAT again eh?) lol! I like the note about newbie island, i gotta take a swim over there soon as nano is over. Great post. 🙂

    • jdwaye August 26, 2011 at 5:25 PM #

      Rock that Nano, Tammy! You can do it!

  5. Gareth August 26, 2011 at 1:56 AM #

    The other thing I would add is read, read, read. Not just your preferred genre but a lot, you can learn tips and tricks, see what works, what doesn’t and you can learn a bit more about the architecture that constructs a title to help you with yours. Also don’t put down a novel that you’re not getting on with, struggle through it, yes I know its hard but it will teach just as much if not more than a title that you love.

    • jdwaye August 26, 2011 at 5:25 PM #

      Gareth, you’re sooooo right about reading everything you can get your hands on, especially about struggling through books that aren’t working. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Emma Cunningham (@emmacunningham) August 26, 2011 at 3:28 AM #

    Great advice here!

    • jdwaye August 26, 2011 at 5:23 PM #

      Thanks, Emma! Nice of you to drop by.

  7. Lisa Forget August 26, 2011 at 2:25 PM #

    Wonderful advice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions.
    Like Tammy, I’m happy for the reminder to swing by to visit the new members.
    Happy Anniversary! 🙂

    • jdwaye August 26, 2011 at 5:22 PM #

      Thanks for dropping by, Lisa!

  8. Pat Hollett August 27, 2011 at 10:38 AM #

    Happy Anniversary Di! Its been great getting to know you this past year. I enjoyed this blog and laughed at the part about ‘the haircut’, such a great analogy! Well done and your points were right on target! 🙂

    • dannigrrl August 28, 2011 at 1:07 AM #

      Happy OWG-aversary! It’s amazing how much you can learn in one year. Great tips and a good reminder to drop by Newbie Island. It’s been awhile since I swam by those waters.

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