Critiquing writing is like taste-testing wine

On January 21, 2011 by Aimee

Since everyone else is talking about critiquing… okay, not everyone-everyone, but you know … everyone. 🙂 I just had to jump on the band wagon.

Now, my title might throw you a little. How is critiquing anything like a fine wine?

Well, let me tell you.

First off? I’m a very picky wine drinker. If it’s not white or white zinfandel? I’m not interested. If it’s tart? I’ll stay away. If it’s ultra-sweet? I can’t stand it. It has to be just to my liking… with a flavor that can lay on my tongue, draw me in and make me want to savor it.

You might like a red, full-bodied, something that burns my nostrils when I even breath around it.

Or, perhaps you’re not into the alcohol scene — at all — and you prefer the sparkling wines. Fine by me.

Then, of course, even in those color ranges (can you tell I am not a connoisseur?) there are different flavors and types; they taste different based on what you’ve eaten even.

See? I know a little. But let me get you back to the critiquing aspect.

If I have to tell you that a wine tastes good, I’m doing so based on my personal opinion … but also some key facts.

I can offer, color, a level of tartness/sweetness, how it is bottled, it’s year and any other number of industry specific details.

Now, let’s say I’m NOT a wine connoisseur (again, remember, I’m not — I don’t drink it very much, but I think the bottles are pretty). Why should you trust my judgement?

Should you even?

Maybe and maybe not.

When I combine what ‘the experts’ say with my opinion and explain WHY I’ve suggested the wine, then you have more information with which to work and the ability to take information and make choices for yourself.

This is how I critique the written word and my photographic art. In wines? Well, I gotta admit. Unless it comes in a shiny blue bottle with a sun on it (aka Reisling by some company that I have NO idea who it is) and it sells for about $7 at Harris Teeter, then I won’t buy it.

But with writing, I take my personal opinion, marry it with industry knowledge and provide BOTH in the context of a story. I am not there to change you story, but to help you tell it better. I am not there to tell you one wine is better than another with no explanation as to why, but to give you the tools and information conducive to making letting you make the choice.

Should I edit that word?

Do I edit all my  ‘now’, ‘here’ and ‘this’ words because of the tense I am writing in?

Adverbs really do suck (or not).

Personal preference plays a large part, but there are also grammar rules, industry standards and the combination plays well together (I think).

But just like choosing a wine … sometimes, the answer isn’t to take all the advice of the expert and the person who’s come up with critique, but to reflect on how it feels TO YOU and to roll with it. Yep. How it feeeeeeeeeeeels. Sometimes, the gut knows all.

You just gotta educate yourself first before you can systematically make those decisions.

Agree? Disagree? Is critiquing really as subjective as we think or are the rules hard and fast?