Thursday, March 3, 2011


Critiquing Part 2

Recently the four women in my writing group sent me detailed critiques of the manuscript of my fourth book, Cut to the Bone. I set to work reading each one, evaluating the comments and, when a significant change had been suggested, thinking about the ramifications of the change.

Surprisingly the changes I made led me to reconsider the characters, to eliminate two and to concentrate on deepened the feelings and reactions of those who remained. As I did this I visualized each one scene by scene and this in turn suggested other changes. It was a fascinating experience and it would not have been possible without the initial critiques.

Why did this happen? I think it was because I was forced to rethink the role each character played and doing this made me reconsider each one’s part in the book. Being a visual artist as well as a writer I saw them in their settings and this made them even more real than they had been before.

All this was done on the computer. The next step was to print the new version and read it. Hard copy brings its own pleasures and again I found a multitude of contradictions, omissions and repetitions that I hadn’t picked up on the computer.

The final step was to read the entire ms aloud. The ears recognized problems that the eyes missed so there were more changes to be made.

Perhaps I’m not enough of a self critic but without the initial input from my four patient readers none of this would have happened. As it is I’m sure the editor will find more things to change but not nearly as many as there were in the beginning.

For me the critiquing process is unbelievably helpful. I know that many writers have internalized all the questions they should ask and don’t need to have others read their work. I’m not there and although I’d like to think I will someday have confidence that I don’t need critiques I don’t really believe it.

Are other writers as reliant on critiquing as I am? It would be interesting to know.

Joan Boswell is a member of the Ladies Killing Circle and co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.


  1. What a process. Lot's of work but it sounds like it was fun too. Can't wait to read the finished product.

  2. I am looking forward to it too. This writing stuff is not for the faint of heart, for sure.

  3. Thanks - I hope you like it. What comes next is the question right now.