continued from Why Freelance Fiction Editing, pt. 1
Critique Groups Vs. Professional Editing
Critique groups can be a valuable way to get practical experience not only in your own writing, but also in your editing skills and in how to graciously receive criticism and feedback on your work. I am a strong advocate for critique groups because I have benefited so much from them. Without my critique group experiences, I would not be the writer or editor I am today. Critiquing other people’s work strengthens your own skills even more than receiving the feedback does. And critique groups can become valuable support groups as you go along your writing journey.
However, there are some drawbacks to critique groups.
♦ Time Commitment: There’s this little thing called Etiquette that demands that if your group critiques your work, you need to reciprocate with some critiquing of your own. It’s hard to keep up with it on a regular basis.
♦ Low Quality Feedback: The feedback you get may or may not be good advice. Ideally, critique groups would be comprised of both published and non-published writers, experienced authors and newbies, who all are interested in and knowledgeable about the genres of manuscripts being critiqued. If you happen to be a member of that sort of critique nirvana, I hope you know how very fortunate you are.
♦ Inexperienced Critiquers: Most critique groups are made up of newer writers or moderately experienced unpublished writers. (The reason is that once you get published, suddenly you have deadlines, marketing, and a whole host of other responsibilities that make it difficult to find time to brush your teeth, much less keep up with a critique group.) The lack of experience means that a lot of times your feedback will consist of little rules that the other group members have gleaned from their writers groups or books and applied over-zealously without really understanding the concept behind it. The problem with this is that no one in the group is able to develop a greater skill in their craft or even break into the realm of art because their writing is confined within these “rules” that they don’t really even understand. Sometimes, the feedback might be just plain wrong. Or you might get four critiques with four different viewpoints. It can be confusing and frustrating.
♦ Outgrowing the Group: It’s not being prideful to say that you’ve grown in your craft to the point where the group is either unable to provide feedback (thus the “Oh, it’s terrific! You always write so well!” sort of comments) or the feedback is very superficial and doesn’t get at the deeper issues you know you need to address in order to improve. Of course, if there are still a lot of feedback you consider superficial, it may point to some areas in which you still need to improve. But overall, you may be ready to move on.
♦ Can’t critique full manuscript: Critique groups are also usually unable to provide in-depth feedback on your entire manuscript. If they attempt it, it may take months to work through an average fiction manuscript. They also may lack interest in your particular genre or not understand the market for which you are writing.
On the other hand, a professional fiction editor does have the ability to work on an entire manuscript. Freelance editors may be able to give feedback based on more industry experience as well as more highly developed writing skills. They are truthful, without being nasty, and will take the time to give you the feedback on the deeper level that you need in order to truly improve your writing. This higher level of personal attention and professional expertise usually far outweighs the drawback of the cost involved.
Part Three discusses What A Freelance Fiction Editor Can Do (And What We Can’t)