Many conferences offer critique sessions in a group setting or one-on-one feedback meetings with a professional writer, editor, or agent. Is it worth missing out on another session to attend a critique?
Even if you are in an MFA program or have a phenomenal writing group, the feedback you receive in those critique session – while valuable – is often geared toward first (or near-first) drafts. The piece(s) you bring to a writing conference critique should be close to what you perceive as publishable. As such, the feedback you receive from publishing experts will help you fine tune your work so that it is marketable and ready to be sent out for queries or submission. It’s unlikely that the other ten or so MFA students (and even the instructor for that matter) can offer you the kind of insight that seasoned publishing professions can. And while your local writing group is invaluable for helping develop your work, the input from a professional can make all the difference.
There are some things to consider …
- Be prepared to receive feedback. Even brilliant stories and poems can benefit from another pair of eyes and seasoned input. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Listen, take notes, say thank you, and let the feedback simmer for a few days. Don’t try to argue your perspective or explain why you are right.
- Do your homework. Make sure that the person(s) who will be giving the critique is a good fit for your work. In other words, if you want feedback on a romance piece and the only available time slot is with an editor who specializes in sci-fi… consider waiting until next time.
- Bring everything you might need. In addition to the requested number of pages, come ready with business cards, additional work, a bio, a synopsis and/or elevator pitch, and breath mints (hey, you’ll be in close quarters!). You never know where a critique session will lead and don’t want to scribble your email on a napkin or the corner of a piece of paper. Be ready for anything.
- Don’t forget – you’ll hear the good things about your piece, too! Critique sessions are designed to provide constructive criticism, and constructive criticism includes elements in the story, poem, or essay that work well for the reviewer. It helps to hear about what you’re doing right so you can keep it up in the draft you’re presenting and in future work.
If you can’t attend a conference that has a critique opportunity, I recommend joining a writing group (either virtual or in-person) or asking a trusted writing friend for feedback. While it can be difficult to listen to feedback and criticism, it can also make the revision process easier and more focused.
How about you? I’d love to hear different experiences with critiques and feedback! Plus, sharing stories and advice will help other writers as we look for new opportunities to grow. So share away!