10/11/2011

Five Reasons to Belong to a Critique Group


Last night, I met for the first time with a new writer’s critique group. For the past four years, I’d been meeting with what turned out to be a core group of five, which originally started as seven. After attending a SCBWI conference in Spokane a few weekends ago, I met several others in my area who are interested in writing for children, and so we met last night to organize.

With any change comes new possibilities, but also fear. Our new group currently has 10 interested persons, which is actually quite large for a critique group. Some people voiced concerns that we could end up spending perhaps too much of our own limited writing time critiquing other people’s manuscripts. After meeting for a few months, perhaps we might decide to split into interest groups. Or perhaps time and people’s schedules will dissolve the potential problem. People get busy. Interest wanes. They drop out.   

But about our new possibilities, I have these things to say:

Change is good! Embrace it. In that it presents new challenges, you must adapt. Adaptation gets the brain synapses moving, the adrenaline flowing. You get exited about your new prospects, but only IF you don’t allow your fears to stop you cold. Instead of worrying about what might happen, focus on the positives:

  1. Be happy that you have met new people who are interested in reading your work and giving feedback on it.
  2. Be happy for the new pool of creative ideas, knowledge, skills and techniques from which to learn from.
  3. Be happy that you are in the process of creating a new community—a new mix of people—who have never before been together. Because everyone comes from a different perspective, they will, by virtue of who they are, give you new insights about the world at large. Our new group includes a retired 5th grade teacher; a landscape architect and mother of a special needs child; a registered nurse and mother of six children; a retired college professor, and a recent graduate with an English degree. My current manuscript includes a segment where someone almost dies of a massive coronary. I now have someone who can read that section with expertise that wasn’t possible in the group before. 
  4. Be happy for the new journey you’re about to take, and be open to the ways it will cause you to become a stronger, more capable person. So maybe you’ll need to learn better time management skills, in order to have time to read and critique other people’s manuscripts. Contracted writers need to be masters at time management, and meeting deadlines, no matter what’s going on in their lives, or they quickly become has-beens. When you are contracted, you are employed by a publisher. Employers, even book publishers, don’t put up with prima donnas. We certainly look at what we’re doing as art, but publishers look at what we give them as a product.
  5. Be happy for new friends in your life who love writing and are excited to talk about writing. As writers, the thing dearest to our hearts is something not easily shared with non-writers, who really do not understand our passion.   

4 comments:

  1. It sounds like a diverse grop of people who will bring a lot to the table. Enjoy!
    In a different way, I see blogging as having the same aspects to it. Meeting new people. gaining new friends and learning about new and unfamiliar things.

    Melinda

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  2. I think so too, Melinda, about blogging. It really gives you a window into others' diverse lives that you wouldn't get otherwise.

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  3. all important things to keep in mind and be happy about! I haven't had an honest to goodness critique group in awhile. I had a virtual one but now I just have a couple hustry trusty betas:)

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