Monday, September 27, 2010

How Critiquing Can Benefit Freelancers

We freelancers live in a bit of an insulated world—most of the time we’re alone with the computer screen, our thoughts, and perhaps a phone should the mood to communicate with others strike. Most of us are slugging through the ever-growing pile of work on our desks and in our inboxes—how can we possibly find the time to focus on our projects?

My schedule doesn’t lend itself to much editing—once I get the initial version of a project finished, I’ll let it sit for a bit then come back to do any last-minute tweaking or polishing. And as a nonfiction writer, my biggest concerns are having quotes correct, facts accurate, and an overall tone of a piece that sounds as though I have some knowledge of a subject. As I’m usually working on a fairly tight deadline, I haven’t had time to enlist the help of a critique partner or group to make sure I’ve done all of this. Other than occasionally asking my b.f. to read something and asking if it makes sense to him, I go it alone—researching, writing, and editing—and hope for the best.

And lately I’ve been wondering if I couldn’t benefit from a bit of critiquing for my paid assignments .

I’ve always thought of critique groups as something that can only benefit fiction writers. After all, it’s easy to edit and add and revise a story that may or may not ever see the light of day over and over again. But me, I have deadlines. I don’t have time. Does it sound correct? Then that’s all I want. “Send”. Done. On to the next project.

But I’m slowly changing my thinking. I’m participating in Steph Auteri’s “5 Weeks to Freelance Awesome” e-course, and like any other class, weekly homework assignments are included. Steph gives us feedback on each assignment, and although we’re only 2 weeks in, I’ve already taken her advice. I tweaked a query using her feedback and received a very positive email from an editor (not an official acceptance yet, but he said he liked the idea and would bring it to the next assignment meeting). Seeing as how this is a new-to-me publication (and a trade pub, no less, which I’ve been nervous about querying up til now), I was thrilled. Maybe there is something to having a reader with a fresh perspective offer feedback on projects. I’m eager to see if I land any other assignments by applying Steph’s comments.

What about you? Do you use a critique partner or group for professional projects?

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