Necessary Evil

Until two weeks ago, I had been running from critique groups like they were the villain in my first book coming to pillage, mar and finish me off by hanging. Scary stuff, right!

A writer’s manuscript is like a mother’s child. We know they’re not perfect, BUT don’t you dare talk bad about my baby.

We pour our heart and soul into our manuscripts. Spend our days, hours, months, even years building a world outside the one we live in. The characters we create become people with emotions and pasts. People who grow a voice and demand the story be written the way they want. They care not about the writer’s storyline. It’s their life on the page, the only one they may ever get.

In the last three months, I’ve learned SOOO much about writing through the self-editing class I took, reading published novels like a writer, and my DSRA author friends. This is a good thing! But the novel I wrote a year and a half ago, the one I’d “edited” twelve times over when I didn’t know squat, needed work. I knew this, but I needed a kick in the behind to get me going.

Critique group to the rescue. I worked up the courage, registered, held my breath and submitted the first fifteen pages of my first novel manuscript, a.k.a. my baby on Thursday. The moderator collected all submissions and divided them up among the participants; some seasoned authors, some new authors, some newbies. Each participant critiqued three works and received three critiques on their work by Sunday.

The process was painless. Reading the critiques on my work was not. The poor thing dripped red with suggestions and corrections. BUT (there’s the but again) they were supremely helpful. I didn’t get shipped off the island, booed off the bus or laughed off the stage. Quite the opposite. My story was, “compelling and chilling” and they were ready to read more. My writing was amazing, for a beginner.

So, in the warmth of a critique group as opposed to the darkness of a trashcan in a publisher’s office, I found the things I need to correct and remember for future writing.

My advice to you writers: Find a critique group. Critique with people better than you. Intimidating? Yes, but it will make you a better writer.

Question: Do you use a critique group? If yes, what has been your experience? If no, why not? 

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8 thoughts on “Necessary Evil

  1. Megan, congrats.

    I’d rather make my mistakes with a critique group than an agent. For one thing, my group will encourage, support, share resources and teach what they already know. An agent will not take the time to do that.

    A critique group is also a great testing ground for your skill, your voice and your story. How your work is received in a critique group can be representative of how it will be received by an agent, a publisher, the reading audience. How many times have I submitted a chapter with oodles of description I’d poured over, only to receive the comment, ‘very nice, but where is this going?

    D’oh!

    My group is there to BOO HOO and WOO HOO with, depending on the news I share.

    Caution: your group should be supportive and encouraging, help you to grow as a writer, and value your input as much as their own. Your group should be your learning place and your happy place and a safe place. If you end up in a group of writers anxious to show how much they know and how little you know, then it’s time to shop for new partners.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sherry! Great caution. It’s a crazy world out there and you do have to find the niche that works for you.

      Were you friends with the writers in your critique group from the beginning or were they strangers?

      • Sharon and Urve, my official critique group, met in a 12-week critiquing class and continued with a fourth, who moved away. By the time our private group started, we were familiar with each other’s style, and while we each brought something different to the table in terms of skill and genre, we were at a similar level and were heading in the same direction.
        I had belonged to a group a year prior that fizzled quickly. Different goals, different schedule, and the fit was awkward.

  2. I submitted my first manuscript to a critique group to get some honest opinions about my writing. The best thing I ever did. They did not attach me like a pack of wolves, but rather offered up honest suggestions.

    I have two friends who edit my books for grammar. One of them teaches creative writing in college. She is very helpful, She offers suggestions while she is editing my books. She also feels it’s important that I tell my stories in my voice. I feel very lucky to have friends willing to do this for me.

    • A pack of wolves. I love it! No, my critique group members are domesticated street dogs. Friendly and worldly wise. I’m thinking the pack attacks when the manuscripts are submitted to publishers. 😉

      Certainly, David. Good friends with knowledge of the written language who shoot it to you straight are a treasure! I’m happy you have them.

      Thanks for your input! I hope you have a great weekend.

  3. Hey, Megan! Which crit group do you attend? I know there’s a DFW writers group that meets in the HEB area on Wednesday nights and have been thinking about visiting them.

    Sherry and company are great for on-line critique, goal setting, snorting-on-command, chat messaging. But, there’s nothing like having a local group of fellow writers who share the same goals. Write. Write well. And, get constructive feedback.

    Let me know. Thanks!

    • Gloria, you lost me with your acronyms. Newbie, remember. 🙂

      The group I use is online also, http://www.rosescoloredglasses.com/. It is run by two of our published DSRA/RWA members. It has a hundred or so members, but not all participate at once. Critiques are submitted twice a month and you choose when you submit. If you don’t submit anything one week, you don’t have to crit either. I’ve only submitted once because of schedule, but I found the responses helpful and timely.

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