Critical mass part 2

Criticism is part and parcel of the writing process. Without it we will never know if our work is any good, but to benefit the writer the comments must rise above the personal – those kindly responses that don’t offend but don’t offer anything useful either – and address the problems with the writing itself, rather than with the writer.

My mother always used to say, If you can’t think of something pleasant to say, don’t say anything. This might be useful advice in some areas of my life, but it’s completely useless when critiquing another’s work. Writers, particularly beginners, want to know if their work hangs together, makes a thumping good read, has believable characters and plot. Some even want to know if they’ve got the spelling and punctuation right, too. Hearing that the result of sleepless nights, tortuous plotting sessions and numerous rewrites is ‘quite a nice read’ is more likely to send us into a slough of depression than any amount of constructive criticism.

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Who deserves top billing?

Apart from a few preliminary jottings and an introductory chapter, I haven’t committed much of the new novel to paper or screen just yet. Something is preventing me from getting started and the nub of the problem is this: I want to explore the use of various narrative voices and experiment with different points of view, but I’m not sure I have the expertise to do this. On the other hand, if I don’t try, I’ll never know.

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