Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sampling of Critiquers

(Or, Having Some Pie)

Using Ninja Science, I gathered a sampling of 35 writer/critiquers, and asked about critique style. I based my hypothesis (using big scientific words now – feel free to zone out) on my own little critique circle. I have a fantabulous* set of critiquers who are each incredible at critiquing certain things, and I would have put money on my larger sample showing the same pattern.

And I would have won the bet.

Sample Data & Method: 35 total people responded to the question; 21 from Verla Kay’s Boards, 7 from the Flash Factory at Zoetrope, 6 from Write Stuff Extreme (private group), and 1 on an earlier blogpost. The question was posed open-endedly, so in some cases, the researcher (moi) had to interpret the data. I loved reading through all the answers, and admit that some of them made me think more about my own critique process.

Results: Charted in the pie graph below. Because I’m hungry. (I know. I missed Pi Day by a week. My apologies.)

We could probably debate whether some areas could be combined, but I kept 18 categories to show the variety of responses. With 35 people accounting for 71 total tallies, each person averaged 2 categories (though some reported four, some reported one). Writers/critiquers of shorter (flash) fiction were more likely to report multiple categories than those of manuscript-length fiction.

Discussion: I recently found out that one of my writerly friends had 10 (TEN) beta readers for her manuscript. If I thought that was overkill before, I don’t anymore. Especially since she now has a re-write request from a bona fide agent. My friend likely has a critiquer who covers almost all of the above categories. If she used 3 betas, odds are that she’d hadve missed out on some pertinent feedback. Even within a category, the answers carried different shades depending on the responder. Character/Character Arc (14 responses) referred to inconsistencies of character, character arc, strength and depth of character, likeability of character, etc.

So, I guess the follow-up question would be: How many critiquers/beta readers do you have read your work? And, how many do you think you should have review your work?

Next post: A Critiquerly interview with Anita Howard, a newly agented YA writer out on submission.

*Fantabulous is a real word, albeit slang, left alone by spellcheck. Critiquer is not a word, attacked repeatedly by spellcheck. Add it to your personal dictionary. I'm staging a protest. Details TBA.


Marewolf said...

Hmmm...I've beta'd for 4 peeps in the last six months or so (including you, my lovely ;)), so once I have finished and polished my WiP to the best of my abilities, I would send it to them for review.

I'm definitely going to try and garner more critiquer's before I finish my WiP. I think 10 is a pretty good number.

What I would probably do (instead of sending it out to all 10 peeps at once) is send it to maybe five. Take the notes, change what you need to, and then with those revisions send it to the last five.

If it were possible, I would try and send the first issue to five people who look at the big stuff: plot holes, character arc, themes, ya know. Then the last five would be to people who look at the smaller stuff. Does that make sense?

I don't know if that would work out well, but it sounds like a good idea in my head. :)

Marybk said...

Marewolf, I agree with you. Don't rush the critique/beta process. I might even divide it down into three sections if possible, with two sets of big-picture people just to make sure you've got that covered.

Girl Friday said...

I'm quite new to this, but my MS is out with six betas at the moment. As long as you know which advice to listen to and which to ignore, I think the more the merrier. I agree that ten seems a good number.

Marybk said...

Point well taken, Girl Friday. Sometimes, you'll get conflicting feedback from several crit partners.

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