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Critique Groups

caroline-tby Caroline T

Let’s imagine you are a savvy writing newbie and you want to take advantage of book publishing resources early on. You Google; you read books, you buy subscriptions and you figure out what path works for you. Let’s say you have a story in your head that won’t leave you alone; you are compelled to tell your suspenseful romantic tale. You churn out some pages; map out scenes. But being new, you are hoping to find some support, other writers, to assist you with your work. Luckily, using the resources available online and elsewhere, you discover a local chapter of a national writer’s organization that holds monthly meetings only 10 miles away. Great! You have a starting point.

Now you will no doubt feel some trepidation the first time you join in a meeting but soon you realize this is a welcoming and funny and smart bunch and lo and behold, there are other writers just like you. You find a few women who are writing the same kind of story; some have published a book, some more than one, and some are unpublished. Other writers! Others who understand the dedication, the drive, the desire, to write stories. A blessing, indeed. “Do you want to join our critique group, “ they ask?

A critique group? You have heard the term, but what is that exactly, you wonder? A group of writers who will read your pages and critique them? What does that entail exactly? You are thrilled to be asked of course, to be included as a newbie. This is a feeling of relief for sure. But will they change your story? Will they rewrite it? What about chemistry? What about styles and approaches and work ethic? Is there a leader of the group? What are the expectations? Do you have to entertain in your home? It is certainly a bonus that there are published writers in the critique group. But will you feel awkward critiquing their work? Will they offer productive help on the craft of writing? Will they make you feel dumb? Uninformed? You won’t know the answers to these questions unless you ask. Do so.

There are different types of critique groups, including those that can be found online. But finding just the right one for you may take time. Do you want to chat about books in general and drink wine? Do you want just a little feedback from the writers who have been around the block longer than you but ultimately rely on yourself? Critique groups are about the “how-to” of writing; setting, theme, character arc, point of view, pacing. The best groups offer a nice balance of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. They aren’t changing your style; saying you can’t do this or that. You come away having learned something about writing; how not to head-hop points of view in a romance; how to use historical accuracy in a Regency; how to lay out puzzle pieces for a mystery, when the dramatic highpoints should appear. And a really great critique group has publishing know-how. The members aren’t going to brag about how high they hit on the Times list; they aren’t going to one-up the other published writers over sales figures. It’s about the writing. Honing your craft. Seeing your work coming to life with the support and assistance of your peers. Finding these magical ingredients may never happen or it might just be a click or a visit away.

Caroline T is an experienced content editor available to work one-on-one with writers.

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