Rip Me A New One #1

Critique Group.


It is tremendously easier–and faster–to evolve as a writer with a critique group behind you.  (Or around your neck.  Depending on your planetary federation.)  I improved my craft so much between the first chapter of my novel and the last that–well, I felt I had to issue an apology on our listserv for what I’d put my little buddies through.

The Valuable Aspect of Critique Groups #1 that I’ll blog my fingers stubby over today is…



You can read your own words out loud to the mice in your garret all you want, but YOU know what they’re supposed to mean, and you can put in the inflections so they twist the right way.  If you want to see how the reader is going to understand your words, you’ve got to have a stranger (gasp!) put her profane tongue all over them. (Ooooh, yeah.  I AM a YA writer.)

For this exercise, a cold reading is best.  Where the practiced reader stumbles is usually an awkward piece of writing: too many prepositions, jumbled syntax,  misused words, poor punctuation, etc.  Perhaps characters’ names are cumbersome or too similar.

When you are one step removed, you may hear words repeated within mere sentences of each other.  Or even that the “blooming flowers bloomed under Judy Blume’s window”.

Dialogue that sounded snappy on paper may sound insipid hanging in the air:

“I say, Boopsie, could you fetch me that ping-pong ball?”

“What-what?  This one?  Under the yum-yum tree?”


You’ve learned at least a day’s worth of revisions, just by listening to someone read your MS out loud.

God help you when the REAL critique begins.



About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on April 2, 2009, in writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wouldn’t take much to turn this into an article for In the Wind…

    Your resident nagger,

    The RA!

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