critique.

It’s a fantastic story. The characters are alive, intriguing. The plot is moving along nicely, hooking readers at the beginning and carrying them through to the end. After a few edits, it’s ready for a writing group for a read.

Here’s the problem. What happens when you are in said writing group reading your fellow member’s story, understanding all the hard work that goes into getting something ready for just the first reading—and you’ve already read the story? The main character strongly reminds you of _______ in that extremely popular novel you read last year. And, huh, the main plot theme that is shaping up also sounds familiar … from the same extremely popular novel.

Can a story like that be saved? Is it worth pointing it out to the writer and trying to help figure out a way to spin it so there is a difference? Or is it hopeless and the recommendation should be to simply ditch the entire story and start over?

On the flip side, does your reading ever influence what you’re working on? I’ve heard some authors refuse to read anything while they’re working on a story, but personally, I find as long as I stay away from the really popular books, or the few books that I just can’t get out of my head for days, it doesn’t really matter what I’m reading—it seems to stay out of my writing (if anyone has read something of mine and it reminded them of another author, please, please tell me!).

Critiquing, I’m finding, is a delicate balance between helping the person, giving them confidence, and being brutally honest. Best to hear the truth from a friend, right?

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