Friday, March 19, 2010

The Cult - Critters Workshop

Posted by LD Keach on Friday, March 19, 2010

One horrible truth we all know: our Moms are not going to give us an honest critique of our stuff.

Our friends and our co-workers might nod and smile, but the best thing we’ll most likely get out of them (unless you work with a Professor of English, or a sadistic twelve grade Lit Teacher,) is, “I liked it.”

“I liked it.” is about as useful as chewing glass. “I liked it” is that terrible combination of apathy and placating and general dodging to indicate that the writing didn’t necessarily make them want to claw their eyes out.

“It’s okay.” Is even worse.

But this kind of critique is not going to fluff anyone’s egos, let alone help make anyone a better writer. It’s worthless. So worthless, that I’m recalled to my days as fry cook at a bar where the grizzled old regulars had a saying—“I wouldn’t shove that up my butt if I had room for a sawmill.”

Seriously. People said this in real life.

So, before we shove these kinds of critiques up our butts—and way before we submit our manuscripts to a fee-based critique service in a fit of foaming-at-the-mouth dementia, sweet doomy doom, don’t do that—we have another option; Critters Workshop.

(But not Critters, as in the delightfuly adorable 80's space vermin pictured above, which are so freakin cute I just want to gather up a pile of them and let them scamper about my neighbors lawns and giggle at the havoc they leave in their wake, but Critters as in Critiquers. Those who critique.)

Developed primarily for writers of Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror (why does Horror always get last billing in those kinds of lists?), Critter’s Workshop is a collection of hundreds of writers, fledgling and seasoned, who gather together over their literary autopsy table to cheerfully gut the throbbing innards of the story you’re submitting. But, it’s a polite, useful gutting.

Honest, unsympathetic feedback is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to improve our craft as writers. And, if we wait for that kind of feedback from friends, family, or editors, we’ll be left hanging around, bored, wondering where we can get a sawmill.

To participate fully in Critter’s, one is also expected to give critiques as well as receive them, which is also an awesome tool in honing one’s ability to critically examine their own work. And, with the size of the group, be prepared to wait a few weeks (or months) for your story to get up in the queue.

That being said, the sense of community and general helpfulness that Critter’s Workshop inspires is very, very full of worth. They're probably not too interested in fluffing anyone's ego, but, I guarantee, nobody there will stuff the dreaded “I liked it” up your butt.