Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rogue Critique Sessions by Mar Preston

Here I am at the Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego for the weekend. I ventured out of the hotel this evening looking for some dinner, using my GPS to drive to an unfamiliar location. Not only was it dark and scary, but then thick fog rolled in off the ocean. I crept along and finally found Souplantation when it began to rain.

I'm exaggerating only a little. People were dancing naked in the streets to welcome the rain. We're in the middle of a 500-year drought here in California, folks. It was a joyful end to the first day of the conference.

This is what is called a craft conference, the how to mechanics of writing well, publishing, and marketing your work. Janis Thomas wrote two books of women's fiction (and now they won't publish her murder mystery because it would be “brand confusion” for the reader). She was an entertaining evening speaker. There's more new writers here than old hacks like myself.

Now what happens next on the program is the “Rogue” sessions that take place far into the night. Writers distribute a few pages for critique. The secret hope is that every listener will say, “I love it. It's brilliant. I wouldn't change a word.” That doesn't happen in my experience. Some listeners will have incisive, helpful criticism. Others will say a few words about what they heard and then talk about their own work. Others will be vague and inarticulate, and maddening to listen to. We all learn something nonetheless, even if it's clearly what not to do.
When I was very new I distributed a sweet story that I was proud of for critique. This man screamed at me, "Where are the cocks and balls in this story?" Now what on earth do you say to that? I think I was so new that big tears came to my eyes and I blubbed like a baby.  

I'd love to include a photo of all the goings on at the conference. But I spilled coffee on my camera last week and jumped up to get the blue and red can of compressed air to blow the coffee away. Instead I grabbed the blue and yellow can of WD-40 and squirted it into the camera.

That managed to kill it pretty good and dead.

You might like to see enthusiastic reviews for my new murder mystery: On Behalf of the Family


Barry Knister said...

After the rain, forgetting the cocks and balls, getting your camera wet and then destroying it, I think you can safely assume there's nowhere to go but up.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Critiques by people with axes to grind have destroyed fledgling writers' confidence and I've known several who quit writing entirely. I attended writers conferences before online computer groups, where I made new friends and gained two mentors, but I didn't learn much from the programs.

Jean Henry Mead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mar Preston said...

I'm tough as old boots now about receiving critique and try not to get myself into situations where I'm offering critique to new writers. Fantastic session this morning on social media. I actually enjoy Facebook and Twitter because I spend so much time alone.