Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Being Edited (Part 4 of 6)

In a previous blog I referred to editing groups and distinguish them from critique groups. Members of editing groups edit each other's manuscripts. If they do it well, they learn more about the craft and become more sensitive to good writing.

In editing groups, members mark on the manuscripts—either with a pen, or on the computer they use comment boxes in Word texts. They do that before the meeting, and no one reads manuscripts aloud at the meetings. With the proliferation of the Internet, more groups are moving into editing each other on-line.

I detest critique groups and I'm quite vocal about objecting. Writers spend half the meeting time reading aloud the manuscripts and members make comments. I consider that a waste of time. We write for the eye not the ear (with the possible exception of poetry). Some writers read their manuscripts aloud to listen to the cadence and pick up sentences that don't flow, but that's different.

Editors don't sit and read submissions aloud. As their eyes race across the page, they recognize the quality of the writing.

We help other writers when we edit them;
we rarely do much good critiquing when they read aloud.


  1. Good evening Mr. Murphey, I am excited to find your blog. This week was my introduction to you from the ladies over at Proverbs 31 as they spread the word about the She Speaks Conference. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and providing scholarships for women's growth in their faith and their interpersonal skills. Have a blessed night, Melody

  2. Cec,
    Couldn't agree more that critique groups as you define them are a waste of time. But I don't think it matters what you call your group. We called ours a "critique" group, though we operated the same as you defined an "editing" group. I would also suggest that the group be small--three or four, no more. Otherwise, bring your No-Doz; you'll be there all night.
    Jim H.

  3. Thanks, Cec, for differentiating between critique groups and editing groups. You’ve got me thinking. I've been a part of read aloud groups and on-line (editing?)groups, both called "critique groups." Like Jim, I'm not sure I see much difference. The online responders use comment boxes, strike outs, etc., but mostly comment boxes.

    I agree with what you say about writing as a print medium. It's enormously useful to see how readers read your writing—how all those black marks on the page are coming across.

    But I'll admit to becoming frustrated with comments from online crit partners who are not widely read, who read with their favorite genres or writers’ voices in their heads, or with "writing popular fiction" rule books in their heads. I’m not sure if I’d call their responses editing or commenting. Their comments may or may not be useful. As the writer, I consider all comments then chose which to disregard.

    A trusted editorial partner, I’m thinking, will read with sensitivity to my voice, the genre, and the particular audience for the work. A trusted critique group of such people is hard to find! And it takes time to develop the understanding of each other’s style, along with the trust. Some of us start with our spouses! I'm fortunate to have a husband who (though a male reader of my women’s fiction wip) is an excellent reader and gives me useful, critical feedback.

  4. Thanks to all of you for the comments.

    First, if you're not getting what you want from an on-line group or an in-person group, you have the option to leave and start a new one.

    I like comment boxes and I use them as suggestions, not commands. I've never indulged in commentaries and wouldn't agree to people in on-line groups to use them. They're a waste of time.

    And in any group, you'll find a few people who don't have a strong grasp of writing, but think of it as a learning experience for them.

    Second, what we call a group seems important to me. The term _critique_ has come to stand for read-aloud groups. _Editing_ states the purpose.

    Third, Jim suggested 3 or 4 people. That's probably good, especially if they covenant to be faithful. I set 6 as a maximum, but I also realize that the larger the group, the less committed members seem to be. Find what works for your group.

    Fourth, I used to attend those in-person meetings that didn't know when to stop. So we had a timekeeper and allowed 20 minutes for oral evaluation. If we read/edited the manuscripts in advance, we didn't need to cover the same material again. I finally said, "If you've written it on the manuscript, you don't need to say it.

  5. Although I enjoy writing, I am a novice at the craft. I do not know others in my area who have a passiong for writing, but after reading your posts about editing, I think I need to start hunting down some fellow writers who would like to start an editing group. What suggestions do you have for getting a group started? Are there any guidelines that you've found to be helpful in creating a successful group? I have so much to learn and am thankful for P31 Ministries pointing me toward your webpage and blog.


What are your thoughts?