Monday, February 9, 2015

Writing Resources Part IV- Critique Groups

Congratulations to Joan Edwards who won an autographed copy of In My Brother's Shadow by Monika Schroeder. Thanks to all who entered.
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Since I moved recently I wanted to find a new writers' group. I visited a children's writers group and one devoted to historical fiction. In both groups I perceived a greater emphasis on self-publishing than on developing one's writing craft, so I decided to keep looking. 

The co-ordinator of the third group I visited caught my attention when he announced the group's goal: every writer should get better each week. In addition, writers did not read their own work so they could hear it the way a reader hears it; they couldn't defend their work, they should bring work they wanted to refine, and they should be ready to spend time and effort helping other members improve their work. 

I knew I'd found a writers' group after my own heart.

This is my first critique group in which men outnumber women 3:1 and where members write romance, memoir, historical fiction, short stories, and fantasy. This group takes writing seriously and I'm enjoying a brand new audience for my fourth draft of Half-Truths.

Entering a new writers' group has made me consider what are important components of a critique group. Although this post is not offering a giveaway, I'm include observations from three other writers on what they have gained from critique groups.

Gretchen Griffith, author of Lessons Learned, Wheels and Moonshine, Called to the Mountains, and When Christmas Feels Like Home says, "I most appreciate the honesty and professionalism I get from my critique partners. When I walk away from a session I am confident not necessarily that I am right, but that I have the tools to work through a manuscript. I realized recently that the revisions I'd made caused me to stray from my intended theme. I went back and looked at it through their perspectives and made adjustments."

Vijaya Bodach, author of numerous science books for children and a new picture book, Ten Easter Eggs writes, "There is no comparison to an in-person group. Make the effort to find a couple of trust-worthy folks to be a support to one another. Remember to be kind and honest in your critique. The point is not to impose your view, but to make the manuscript better. I find that a cold reading is very beneficial. Let another person read aloud and let the writer listen. It engages a different sense and allows you to perceive your work from another angle. Do not defend your work, listen, take notes, and return the favor."

Shannon Wiersbitzky, author of The Summer of Hammer and Angels and What Flowers Remember says, "I’ve been with the same group for 10+ years. Given the length of time, the trust is absolute. These are the first folks that should be alerting me I have spinach in my teeth! There is time for kindness after a critique, but during, it must be utterly candid and all about making the work better."

In addition, I've found it helpful to print out and read aloud my work before I submit it. In this way I catch more of my own mistakes before I ask for input from critique partners. 

The best book I've found on starting, building, and running a critique group is Becky Levine's,  The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. I'm not ready to give away my copy--but I hope you'll check her book out. 
What have been your experiences with your critique group? Leave me a comment-I'd love to hear from you!

16 comments:

beckylevine.com said...

Carol, Thanks so much for the mention! Good luck with your new group. :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Becky. Seriously--I'm cleaning out my bookshelves. But yours is one book I don't want to give away!

Rosi said...

Becky's book is very good. Good for you for trying out critique groups before committing to a new one. Most people don't do that. The chemistry has to be just right. Glad you found the perfect one for you.

Linda A. said...

Carol,
I'm checking out a new critique group too on Thursday. It is a face-to-face group of all genres that is organized through MeetUp.com. Members who RSVP send in a manuscript and are sent submitted manuscripts to critique. I hear it is a great group. I do like my online group but I can't submit my memoir project to them since it's a children's group. Lots of variety out there. Isn't that great?

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Best of luck with your new writing group, Carol. It sounds like a good one. Happy writing!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Clara, Linda and Rosi. Yes, the chemistry has to be just right in writing and critique groups!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

So glad you have found the "write" group! They can be thankful you found them, too!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, LInda. They have indicated that they do appreciate me too!

Young Authors Program said...

I know for sure joining the SCBWI, which lead me to finding my crit group partners, are the two reasons my writing improved. p.s. we miss you, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Dorothy. I miss you guys too! But this is definitely an interesting group that I've joined. Not being the leader is also different!

Jean said...

I love Levine's book, too.

I really miss being part of a regular critique group myself.
It's like looking into a well-lit, magnifying mirror. All the bumps and wrinkles show so you can know how to fix them.

Miss you, Carol. Keep writing. Keep learning.

Jean

Carol Baldwin said...

Jean, I love that analogy!! Good one!

kathleenburkinshaw said...

Carol, So glad you found a critique group in your new place!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen. Me too!

Kathy Wiechman said...

I also had to leave the first group I looked into. It wasn't the right fit for me. But it paid to keep looking. Now I belong to two very different critique groups, and each is helpful in a different way.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yep. You have to know what you're looking for and what's a good fit!