I've been reading through the entries in Miss Snark's First Victim's contest, offering my critiques and reading what other people have to say. There's definitely a spectrum of critiquing experience out there! Sadly, I'm not counting myself at the top, either. For me, writing, and knowing what writing is good vs. what is either bad or not quite there, is very instinctual. I can't always point out the specifics of what works and what doesn't. Which is a rather large problem for a writer attempting to perfect her craft!
I can tell I've gotten better over the course of editing Madison, just as my drafts have gotten better. I can also see my critiquing weaknesses—there are many scenes and sentences that made it through several rounds of edits before I realized what the problem was. My opening is a prime example. I've reworked the first chapter so many times I've lost count, and from what I can tell from the critiques I've gotten (and from seeing how little story there actually is in those first 250 words), another round of edits is in order.
I'm pleased and frustrated at the same time with my experience in this contest. Pleased that I'm in it, that I see another way I can improve, and that I'm getting these critiques from people who talk the language. But it's so frustrating to know that my editing eye is not as well honed as I thought it was. Worse, I'm not sure how to go about improving my critiquing skills.
For a start, I'll be reading through everyone's comments on every piece entered, learning from others. But beyond that? What's the next step? How do I make myself better, sharper? Because the faster I can see the mistakes, the faster I can correct them and stop making them.