Saturday, September 24, 2005


I'm working at ASU today doing the Mars Education Program's annual fall regional teacher training workshop. It's great to spend a Saturday in Tempe, AZ, lemme tell ya. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

At any rate, I logged on to OWW yesterday and did a few critques. As I mentioned yesterday, OWW requires that you get four "critique points" for each piece of your own that you submit. You are given four points to start with, and you normally get one point for each critique you do. When you move to the section where you can get pieces to critique, however, the system offers you one under-reviewed piece for double points. Since I don't really care which piece I critique at this point, I ended up taking two of those. I've now got eight points, so I could submit two pieces (or chapters, more likely) if I really wanted to. I figured I may as well give the "little guy" a hand, so that was my real reason for chosing those pieces, not the points.

I can't (and won't) talk about any of the specifics of the pieces I reviewed, but as I had hoped, I did pick up on some problems with both pieces that I can avoid in my own writing. In one case, the author was trying to use "vivid imagery" in his writing, but it came across as simply being overwritten and heavily laden with adjectives. I made the suggestion (and you might try this with your own writing) that, as an experiment, he re-write the piece omitting every single adjective. Some of these adjectives are necessary, to be sure, but I think he will be surprised at how many are not. If you are looking to add richness and vividness to a piece, the place for that is in dialogue or, better yet, in the situations that you place your characters in.

The great and educational thing about critiquing is that it brings to the front of your conscious mind typical mistakes that you know deep-down to avoid. One of my main goals with my writing (and I think it should be a major goal of any writer) is to have my writing not only be good, but also completely under my conscious control. This, I believe, is the mark of a professional writer. I have to say, it's been a long time since I've done any critiques at all (over two years, I think), and I find that I've missed the game of reading a new piece, figuring out what works and what doesn't, and then coming up with a way to help the author see the problems and ways he might can fix them. It's fun, and I can't think of a better way to get you in the "writing mode."

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