Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Beauty of Critique Groups

I realized that I have been seriously working to become a novelist for about five years. In some ways this feels like forever, but at the same time the last five years have flown by, and I have a hard time figuring out where all of the time has gone. There have been times when I have been stuck as a writer, or i have been distracted by other more pressing matters, like being a parent or doing my "other writing" (my job), and my critique group has helped me stay on track and stay focused on my bigger goal.

I started out with a small in-person critique group back when I was just a few chapters into my first novel. I can remember physically shaking as I went to the first meeting. We were all friendly, new writers. These people were people I conversed with anyway, not complete strangers. And the group helped. it was great to get together, talk seriously about writing and to share our stories with each other. The goals for the writers in this group were different, and eventually I felt like it was time to move on.

Around that time, I began to think about finding another critique group, and I found one online. This has been a great group of writers. Members have moved in and out of it, but right now, we have a group of seven serious writers that are pursuing publication. I really feel that the writers this group are focused and each is going to make it the ultimate goal of publication.

A critique group should give  you solid critiques. They need to help you see the areas you need to change, the problems with your story, with your grammar (admittedly I need help here), and pacing issues. A critique group should offer honest feedback, and cheer you on as you make the changes that you need to your story.

But your critique group is a also a place to commiserate as you navigate the writing process. A safe place to moan about your frustrations about getting published, or getting another rejection. They should also be your cheerleaders as you navigate through the world of writing.

While drafting your novel is often a solitary process, getting it ready for publication is not. Before you land an agent, or get an editor, your critique group or partner will be one of the ways that you can improve your writing, and take it to the next level. If you are serious about writing, you should belong to a writer's group that has similar goals to yours.

What's the best thing that you've found about your critique group?

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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