Friday, September 2, 2016

Everyone's A Critic

In the last writers group meeting it was discussed critiquing more work, which quickly devolved into a discussion on the technology required for such action. Let us review:

  • Print out and bring to the writers group.
    • You have to guess how many people are going to show up, chop down that many trees and burn that much ink, and forge so many steel staples, all so that people can dig out their red pens of justice and start marking. And then, when you go home, you have to re-read all the different scribbles and notes and x's trying to makes sense of their meaning. Oh, and you can only bring as much writing as the group can handle that evening. Sure, they can take it home...but will you ever see it again? Good luck.
  • Post your work to Google Docs
    • Save the trees, ink, and steel. Just post to the GD and share that link. This way everyone reads your work in their own time, makes neat comments throughout and Bob's your uncle.
OK, so far we look to have a winner. However, we must be thorough, for science and all. So let us look at some complicated, and cooler technologies that step beyond the GD. Who knows what magic lays beyond? Or, as some say, There be dragons!

Wait, before moving on, we need a history lesson. I have a post called Git and the Writer. Go read it, if you don't know what Git is. Enjoy the video, then swing on back and let's finish this thing.

OK, I like this product. It is simple to use for most and provides an interesting revision feature. For demo purposes I have a first draft of a historical novel I put up and made changes. Here's a screen shot comparing the current version with an earlier:

Here I created a fake user, named Eric (yes, very imaginative) and made several edits and left a comment:

To the left is my master, in the middle the individual changes I can accept, or decline, alone with a note from this mystery critiquer to make it better. Not very helpful sir! In any case I accepted the first change, and ignored the second.

What do I think of Draftin? I like it, but the UI needs a spot of work. It's free, easy, and fairly simple. All plus marks when asking people to critique your work.

Next I reached out to the Typehammer crew on our #slack channel to get multiple edits.

Here you can see John called me out on the spelling for friar:

Here I can see his change, and accept it or ignore:

I can also choose to accept all the changes from John in one click, which I usually do as I trust him to catch things I miss, but not before reviewing.

Here is a remark by another reader:

As you can see people can freely leave comments, make changes and I can choose to ignore, or accept with ease. And because it is using a revision tool I can always go back to earlier drafts with ease. Nothing gets lost forever.

Here is another tool using revisioning and workflow. I have several chapters of one of my novels in progress and John had started making suggestions and comments:

Here you can see his changes, deletions and additions, his comments and the ability for me to accept or reject his changes.

If you would like to try out your editing skills with either of these tools, I have early drafts of work that you can go into and play with

There are many more tools available to writers looking to share their work with critique groups; this is only scratching the surface. Find the tool that works best for your group and use it. Just don't let it distract your from the real reason you are doing all of this: To write.

There is one more method I would like to share, that may be a great compliment to your writing group.

This is an online, social site for writers to critique, and get critiqued. As the administrator to your writing group you can create a likewise group in Scribophile and as your members join the site, they join your group as well. This way, when each other post work, you can give preference to your group, and use it as an internal critiquing tool.

Here are three different screen shots from critiques of an earlier version for Prince of Pigeon Hill.  As you can see there are both inline comments, edits, as well as comments.

Using something like Scribophile may be a great way to augment your writers group by bringing in more critiquers from the world, and more readers to your writers work.

If you would like to join the @Typehammer #slack channel, reach out to via Twitter and I can get you in.

Other blog posts by Eric Michalsen
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