Friday, January 16, 2009

Critique groups

Today my critique group met to present our latest manuscript pages, poems, etc.  If I had not had these women to turn to over the last several years, my book would long ago have been put into a drawer and left to rot. With grace, wit and great wisdom, they edit and comment on what I bring to them. They laugh and admire a paragraph or two, then point out what is slowing the story down, what is unclear or downright stupid (although they never use that word).  

They are helping me with two novels: one I've described in this blog, and another that is a coming of age story about a young girl whose mother has rejected her and left her to be raised by her grandmother. Both books will eventually be finished because of these faithful and diligent friends. I count on them to counteract my nearsightedness  about my own work. 

Some writers choose not to join a group, some have joined one and found it unhelpful. I've been in several, some better than others. Things just work in my current group. If you have not been fortunate in critique groups, keep trying. Find one with people that share your particular values and outlook, or maybe your genre. Fantasy  and sci-fi writers may need to find a group that sticks to their genre. Some of the rest of us have no idea how to advise you.  But for most of us, a general group can work very well. However, all groups need to follow some simple rules.

Come prepared to share your work, and prepared for it to be criticized. This is the purpose, after all.  I've been in critiques where certain members wanted to read their material and be praised. Any suggestion that changes needed to be made was rejected and they eventually left the group. Get real, people.

Come prepared to offer your most gracious help to the other readers. Give kindly critique, helpful direction, gentle guidance--honesty with grace, please.

Come prepared to share the time.  If any one person dominates, someone else loses the chance to present their labors.

Come to triumph over all the things that keep you from finishing and marketing your work.

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