Nerdarchy at Balticon 2016 – Panel Synopsis – How To Give and Receive Writing Critiques for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Panel Date – May 29, 2016
Attendance – Approximately 40 Science Fiction Writers and Readers
Balticon is a large annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers convention that occurs in Baltimore in late spring each year. Balticon 2016 featured George R.R. Martin as it lead guest writer. The Balticon 2016 Panel “How To Give and Receive Writing Critiques for Science Fiction and Fantasy” presented a range of advice from professional science fiction and fantasy writers on critiquing in the formats of Class, Group and Online.
Connie Willis – If one critiquer is telling you to do something in your writing, think about – if 20 critiquers are telling you to do something, do it You critique others work until you are ready to critique your own and make it better It is hard to hear negative critique on own work Don’t slap dash critique others while you are waiting for your own critique – be emotionally involved There were times when Willis said to herself that other critiquers of her work were idiots and then made all of their suggested changes three days later Zero Sum critiquers can kill a Writing Group (Willis witnessed two writer groups destroyed by a zero sum critiquer) Listen to everyone except zero sum critiquers Prioritize changes that can immediately be done Be aware of who is critiquing, someone who only likes Military Science Fiction is unlikely to be useful at critiquing your Urban Fantasy Romance story Lucius Shepard has a lush descriptive style that has grown to be his staple and workshops he participated in his early career told him to abandon this style (Willis was told to do more physical description in her work in early workshops) General critiques of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop is that it turns out B writers, but no geniuses Make sure you preserve your genius, if you are unique – to hell with all of your detractors Pitch shops (workshops with the structure of $500 for one weekend and 5 minutes to pitch an editor or agent) are a very bad idea – avoid these Don’t fool yourself – know what your writers group is – a critique group or a support group? Recommends attending the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop
Scott Edelman – Learned a great deal by critiquing with Damon Knight Be aware of the seriousness with which critiquers are approaching the critique If a problem is called out in a critique and a solution is given, sometimes the problem is real, but the given solution is wrong Learn who you can discount Don’t write for the workshop you are in (a distinct problem that does occur at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop) Sometimes a problem of your early writing career can become a distinct style in your later writing career Recommends the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop
Alex Shvartsman – Recommends the Philcon Writers’ Workshop (which occur in November in New Jersey annually) Recommends Writers of the Weird Group The range of writers workshops include Online (Codex Writers and the Critters Workshop) and Non-Online Groups With Online Workshops there can be a lot of noise to signal and some incorporate a leveling up structure that may necessary to climb before you get the most value Called out the option of writing workshop cruises You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the right fit for a writers group or writers workshop Do not critique to win Recommended as a writer’s resource NeoPro Beta readers are different than critiquers – beta readers find little bugs early and can be exceptionally valuable to use if you have someone bright and dedicated who can fill the role
Sarah Pinsker – Your heros have drafts too Be ready to say “this is my story and you are getting it wrong” in response to some critiques Recommends Onlinewriters Do not put your work anywhere online where it is open to the public before publication because you lose your write to first publication Editing Ted Chiang and Maureen F. McHugh was harrowing because of the respect held for these authors
K.M. Szpara – Learned from Steven Gould to look at the writing process and self assess Google critique groups can be useful Identify on a craft level what is wrong Does tension in a story feel forced?
GARIBAY CLOSING NOTES
This was a great panel – mostly to hear Connie Willis. She is widely regarded as a premier talent in Science Fiction writing and there was a deference that was displayed by all of the other panelist toward her that was palpable when she spoke (from significant experience). The moderator (Sarah Pinsker) did an exceptional job of making sure that all writers were heard and giving time for questions and answers at the back half of the panel time.