Now that work has slowed down (because I made it), I can focus on a topic near and dear to my heart: editing and critiquing! This was the topic for the AQC chat last night, but I had Easter play rehearsal, and then my friend wanted my sister and I to come over and watch wrestling (which instead, we talked for 5 hours lol), so I was only able to peek in for a second, then skidaddle for a late and yummy dinner my cousin made.
I believe, though, that the topic was for editing and critiquing the work of others, and how to go about doing it. As I've just acquired my partner from The Matchelor (I'm so excited/anxious/nervous!) at Falling for Fiction, I felt the topic kismet!
Now, why are editing and critiquing so near and dear to my heart? I don't know. (Shoot me, right?) It just happened one day in my Dramatic Structure class, where we had to write, then sit in these tiny groups and read what each other wrote, then discuss the good and the bad. Then, sometimes, EVERYONE had to read it. Workshops still kind of make me cringe, because having more than 3 people read my stuff made me feel extremely naked, and I sometimes run through the house in fear of being seen even when no one's home if I left my towel in my room! But there was something about looking at someone else's work and seeing the little grammatical errors, the continuity, repetition (the rambling *points at self*), and being able to correct it and/or steer the writer in a better direction that made me feel powerful. Can hardly do it to my own work to save my life, but that's what others are for!
Now, a few do's and don'ts that I imagine the AQ-Crew went over last night.
DO: Be honest and specific. "I liked it." "I didn't like it." Those aren't good enough. What didn't you like about it? What did you like the most? What worked in his story? If you hated it, why?
And if you did hate it: DON'T be mean. I'm going to be honest: I'm a blunt person. My friends say I'm mean, and one calls me a jerk. lol Once, after a classmate wrote a short story 15 pages past the allowed limit and past the allowed margins by an entire inch, and the story was terrible, I let my emotions (it made me fairly angry) known in my written critique, and he looked at me sideways for a long time the following day. Don't be that girl. You want people to like you even if you're sort of judging them after what you've read. lol Instead of doing what I did, take it as an opportunity to help the writer better their work. You can be honest without killing someone's dream (I really hope I didn't kill his dreams).
DO: Open up your imagination to where the writer is going. I read a lot of different genres, and last year I decided to pick up my first hard fantasy to read. I was nervous, because I couldn't even finish The Fellowship of the Ring, and the book seemed to be about the same thickness. But I opened my mind to it, and I was plunged into a great world and story that I didn't want to end! (It was The Enduring Flame Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory.) It might be hard to read historical fiction if you love science fiction or steampunk when you like romance, but always try something once. Hey, you might even get inspired (it helped me find my pen name).
And with that, DON'T try to make the writer be you. I didn't mean for this to be anecdote theatre, but I once tried to get my friend to read a young adult flash fiction I wrote, and she sent me a short story she wrote. I lived a sheltered suburban life up and down the Eastern Shore; she grew up in a colorful town an hour from Miami. We had some issues with the way we saw the world. lol I had a rather steamy scene that she wanted even steamier, and the children in her story spoke as though they were horny teenagers. Our environments and life experiences shaped our characters and their circumstances. Since neither of us lived in each other's shoes, when the time came to say what we should change, those experiences and circumstances were the first things we said needed to, and we both said, "No." Again, keep an open mind. We all come from different walks of life, so take that into account.
Also, DON'T be so rigid with the technical stuff. If the writer wanted an English teacher, they would've asked for one. Some typos are accidental; some comma placements are purposeful. I think we all learned the basics, and then we decided the world was our oyster. Perhaps that run-on sentence was supposed to be a run-on. I like to start sentences with And, But, So. It means something different for everyone.
Finally, because I have to leave work soon, DO take into account you are holding someone's baby. They slaved for a long time and struggled with letting the baby-sitter take it away for the weekend. Don't take it for granted. Care for it the way you want yours to be cared for, and build a relationship and friendship with the person, so that you know there will always be someone in your corner when you're above to give up your baby.