Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Difference Between Reading and Critiquing

For me, reading and critiquing are worlds different from each other.

When I read a published book, I relax and accept the story for what it is in its finished form. I may make judgments if I find something I'd change if it were up to me, but I don't dwell on any perceived glitches. I take the story as a whole and let it wash over me like a summer sun. *sigh* Reading good fiction is my happy place.

When I critique, a whole different mindset colors the reading. I'm looking diligently, not for mistakes to correct, per se, but for any possible way the story can be made better, stronger, more realistic, more moving.

This is why I could tear through SHIFTING by Bethany Wiggins in two nights of feverish reading, and yet it takes me weeks to months to critique a friend's unpublished MS.

I can't change the published novel. I can't change my buddy's MS either, but I can make suggestions that might influence the finished project. I love being part of that process.

But it's definitely a slower process for me than reading published works, if only because I'm invested in its success. I don't want to do a half-baked job. I sincerely want to see the amazing stories my CP's write end up on bookshelves everywhere.

I should probably ease up a little, take some of the pressure off myself. After all, it's hubris to think I could make or break someone else's book. I know I can't. Yet the difference between these two types of reading remains striking for me.

Do you critique as fast as you read, or is it a longer labor for you, too?

I lucked out and got to read an advanced reader copy this weekend!!

Please check out my Afterglow lovefest review for SHIFTING by this phenomenal debut novelist, Bethany Wiggins. And get your hands on a copy if you can (comes out this Tuesday!). You won't be sorry.


  1. This is such a good point. I do notice that when I really enjoy a story in my critique circle, once I become invested, it's harder and harder to find the flaws and to read with that critical eye.

  2. I totally agree. I sometimes feel guilty about how long I take to critique an MS, but I really want to put a lot of time into it and make sure my feedback is the best that it can be. I saw a lot of critiques in writing workshops where it was clear the critiquer didn't put much thought into what they were saying, and I think that's both unhelpful and disrespectful to the writer. We need more betas like you! :)

  3. It's the same for me. I can take forever to critique an MS -- partly because I'm a dreadfully slow reader, but mostly because I deliberate over sentences and paragraphs, running them over and over in my mind to see if there's any suggestions I can make to better the story. I feel terrible when it takes me weeks and months to send it back, but that's better than a half-baked critique, imo. :)

  4. Tricia - that's happened to me with a few of my CPs' recent books. I think that's a really good sign for their work!!

    Becky - Thank you! And I agree, it's lame when people don't put any effort into a critique, and you can totally tell they didn't try.

    Emy - "I feel terrible when it takes me weeks and months to send it back, but that's better than a half-baked critique, imo." EXACTLY!

  5. I take forever to crit--but my problem is, I often critique published works in my mind! I can't always hit the off switch! (I'm looking at you, Breaking Dawn.)

  6. I'm usually very thorough when I critique, especially since I have no idea what (if any) suggestions are going to resonate with the author. And I tend to spend a lot of time trying to explain the reasoning behind my suggestions, probably too much most of the time. So critiquing definitely takes longer.

    When I'm reading a published work, I can let most things go, but if I'm constantly finding things I want to correct or change, I'll usually put it down and move on to something else--something I never used to do. Becoming a writer has made me a very picky reader. :(

    Great post! :)


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