Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

June 14, 2010

As you all know I had 15 little darlings pages to ship off to SCBWI for a manuscript critique. (You remember “Holy Freak Out" in a can?)  First my lovely critique partner Diana picked it clean and made me look like a rock star.  Then after I completely dissected it, I shipped it off to two other trusty critique buddies.  Then finally, I let the hubby look at it.  Would you have guessed that every single one of them discovered a misspelling that the others did not?  (solider should have been soldier, lose should have been loose)  Words that were close enough they fooled the eye. 

Grammatical errors and misspellings are a must change.  Multiple observations/suggestions from your critique buddies of your piece need to be heavily considered, most likely changed.  Then lastly, minor suggestions or changes are at your discretion for what fits best in your vision for the novel.

I like it when people are happy.  More so if I can do something to make them happy.  When ends up biting me in the butt because I found myself trying to accommodate majority of the suggestions made by my critique partners.

WRONG!  Luckily for me I was under a time crunch and quickly got a clue.  After I sent out my little baby manuscript, I realized I can not please everyone, nor should I try.  Besides, a little controversy could be good as well, right Lindsey Lohan?

To add to the critique Su Chefs that I already have in my kitchen, I decided yesterday to go to a critique group.  Everybody has one and I thought it was something I needed.  

Um, no.

On the “YAY!” side, everyone had a lot of positive things to say about writing and the piece itself.  The few suggestions or concerns they had my lovely Su Chefs already pointed out.  Though I am happy about what was said and/or suggested, I became overwhelmed because there were TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN! 

A “good” critique partner will point out possible problems.  It has been for me the most invaluable tool to advancing my writing.  I suggest it to everyone.  Weather you find a local group or buddies on the net, you will be amazed at much it will help. 


There is always a but, don’t get too many critiques at once or you will go bonkers analyzing all the comments.  Sometimes you just need to remember the old rule of less is more.

Do you have a critique partner?  Is it working for you?

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  1. I've never been in any kind of critique group. I think I'd go batty getting everything picked a part. ME = BIG BABY! ;) At seems that people adore their critique groups or go one time and realize it is totally not for the them!

    If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen...yep, that's me! I stay way out! :)

    Super post!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  2. I just graduated from an MFA program so for two years I dealt with "too many cooks in the kitchen"! Well, it wasn't that bad, but with 10 other people critiquing my work, it felt that way at times. It eventually got easier to figure out what definitely need to be fixed and what didn't necessarily need to change in my pieces. Everyone has an opinion and it's impossible to please them all. And sometimes the opinions conflict! But when you have a bunch of people getting your work, what's great is getting a sense of whether the project as a whole is working.

    Now that the program is over, I'm looking forward to only having a few people look at my work at a time. It's less overwhelming that way :o)

    Good luck! I've never participated in a SCBWI critique (though I have been to two conferences) so I'm curious to hear how it all goes!

    p.s. I recently found your blog. Feel free to check out mine!

  3. Hilary, it was a 40 minute drive and five hours away from my boys on Sunday. Right there, they lost me. And they were so gushing they struggled to find an issue. I'm sorry, I'm a new writer, my writing has lots of issues baby and I need to hear the negative.

    Ghenet, Welcome Love! Holy crap, 10 critiques? No thanks. It's my first time to a writer's conference, workshop, or writer anything. I am nervous and excited. I don't know what to expect from this critique but I figure it is a good way to get professional feedback before I query. Which I hope to be finished and do later this fall. *crosses fingers*
    You're in NY, lucky girl to be so close to the hot presses.

  4. I LOVE my critique group. I couldn't write the book without them. It's only my two critique partners--so nothing overwhelming. Both of them are VERY good at what they do though.

    Before I found my group, I only had my family and friends. They all LOVED my book. That was the original crappy version. I think they were so impressed that i wrote something mildly decent that they were just blind to its many many flaws.

    My critique group saved me! We started our website together and now do a lot of critiques for people. We take a couple submissions a month. One thing we make sure to write on EVERY critique is that our opinions are subjective--the writer is the only one who truly knows their story and it is always up to them whether to change something or not.

    It's important to have faith in your story, while at the same time not be so attached that you can't handle having it taken apart. It can be a fine line to walk.

    On another note--did you get my email about the contest? Just wondering cause I hadn't heard back from you. :)

  5. Callie - I love when I get a "tough love" kind of critique. Those are them most helpful. Maybe one of these days I'll send the Chimera my critique.

    No I haven't gotten an email from you did you send it to girlw1eye at gmail dot com?

    Did I win? Did I win? I've been focusing on my WIP the last few days and have not even surfed the blogosphere.

  6. I don't have a partner, but a group. I love hearing their ideas. I may or may not use all their ideas for a piece, because some areas can be reworked and others I'm reluctant to change. Either way, I value their input. Unlike another crit group I was in, there's no hostility or biases. I feel that the members give critiques to genuinely help others.

  7. I've used several critique groups and one thing I learned early on was NOT to try and please everybody. You have to remain true to yourself and your story, which means sometimes you'll have to ignore advice. Of course, if you keep hearing the same advice over and over (which is a good reason for multiple critique partners), then maybe its time to reconsider your position.

  8. Hey guys thanks for commenting.

    Media – If I didn’t have my partner I would definitely find a group. I love hearing what is working in my story and what is not too. That’s a shame you had a bad experience but it’s all a part of the learning process. But finding a group that gets you and vice versa, that can be a beautiful thing.

    DL – Sometimes they gave really good advice but it is not the direction I was going. Yes, hearing the same advice over and over from multiple people, those are the parts we should reconsider changing. I agree.

  9. Yes! I know how you feel. I just received 13 crits on my work and it is so frustrating and confusing. While the feedback was mostly positive, the things that one liked another totally hated. It's all so subjective. I need to set it aside for awhile and come back to it. When do know though that one everyone says something is a problem, it's a problem. Now, how to fix problem?
    Good luck Dana - always follow your gut and heart - you know best. Also thanks again for letting me read it - I still want more.

  10. Aw Mary, you are about the sweetest darn thing ever. I think I'm going to shrink you down to 3 inches, clip on some butterfly wings and sit you on my shoulder. When I doubt my writing again, I'll have you there fix me up.

    You're right if more than one person points it out, it needs to change. And fixing it can be a booger.

    And you better believe, when I am finished with this sucker and have my second draft ready, you're the first person I'm sending it too. Thanks again for all you tough love/honest critique.

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  12. I sent off my 15 pages for the review after my writer instructor gave me feedback on it. But after I sent it, several other talented writers volunteered to beta read it for me. Let's just say the version SCBWI has is nothing like the one that landed me a request in a recent agent contest.

    I agree, there is definitely such thing as too many cooks. I was starting to get conflicting advice. ;)


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