For the past year I’ve been involved on and off with a critique group. They have made the world of a difference to my manuscript, but along the way I’ve talked with other critique groups and have discovered that there are distinct critique personalities.
Gaby will dissect each and every comma, fragmented sentence and Canadian vs. American spelling. She’s all about getting your manuscript in tip top shape so that when you send it out to a prospective agent or editor, they’ll see your work for the story and not the misspelling on page five. Gaby will also highlight every single adverb you have and remind you to ‘show’ your story rather than ‘tell’ it. Having a Gaby on your critique team is immensely helpful.
Claire has razor sharp reading senses and can pinpoint if you’ve just used a word three times in two pages unnecessarily. She will call you on your inconsistent settings, or if you’re describing autumn when you’ve said it’s July. Claire will also remember phrases common to specific characters, and will say “No!” when you’ve tried to have three different characters use the same unique line. For writers like myself who are weekend writers, Consistency Claire is vital to keeping you on track with what you’ve already written.
Sarah doesn’t care if you’ve used too many adverbs or if you’ve overused the word ‘awesome’. She is purely there to tell you about your story. Does it work? Does it not? Sarah is representing your future readers and will let you know if your last submission was a page-turner, or if she struggled through it like quicksand. In most cases, a storyline Sarah is a voracious reader in her own life, so she can often point to which author’s style or story yours is most like. When all the other pieces fall into place, if Sarah doesn’t like your novel, you’ve got some rework to do. Wait! Before you go too far down the road, though, have a second Sarah backup her opinion. One opinion can be considered an outlier, but multiple points to a potential problem.
Most of us will have had a motivational Mary in our group. She’s a pretty good balance of Sarah, Gaby and Claire. She will highlight the odd grammatical error here and there, she may pick up on some repetitive wording or inconsistencies, and she will let you know how she feels about your storyline. But, most of all, what Mary does is inspire you to keep writing next week. She wants you to keep writing. After all, what is a writer who doesn’t write?
What kind of critique personality do you have? Have you experienced others?