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Saturday, December 15, 2007

 

What Is a Great Critique Group All About?

I am a lucky writer. Not because I have had minor success in getting my work published, not because I have my own office to work in at our house, and not because my husband bought me my very own laptop and puts up with living with a writer. Yes, those three things are wonderful, but that's not why I feel like a lucky writer today. I am a lucky writer because I have a GREAT critique group.

Actually, since I have moved around a lot in the past seven years, I have been lucky to find a good critique group wherever I lived. But since I am currently living in East Central Illinois, working with this children's writers' critique group, and they are currently helping me with my young adult novel, I will focus on them. Plus if I blog about these generous writers, perhaps they'll even "love" my story instead of liking it. (Just a little cyber space brown nosing there.)

I want to share with you why my critique group rocks for two reasons. If you aren't in one, then maybe this will encourage you to find one or start your own. My second reason is there are a lot of critique groups out there, and they aren't so great. Maybe you feel this in the back of your mind, just like when you know there is something wrong with your main character, but you just can't figure it out.

The first thing I love about my group, which consists of seven writers, is we all write consistently, and we all care about writing. We meet every three weeks at a local Borders store, and each time, we have at least four stories or chapters to critique. Some groups have a dominant member, who brings hundreds of pages of their writing and monopolizes the entire meeting with their work. We don't have that, and we are very thankful!

We have a good mix--being children's writers, we are also lucky enough to have a male in our group. We have all ages, all life experiences, all different professions--as I said we are a good mix. We write picture books, short stories, articles, novels, poetry--you name it, we've wrote it, read it, and critiqued it.

We don't have a lot of silly rules. We established a few guidelines since our writing is so precious and close to each of our hearts. One is to make sure and say what you LIKE or even LOVE (which is much better than like) about the story before you rip it to shreds. Also, we try to ask questions about the writing or state things that we feel need to be changed in a delicate way such as, "If I was writing this story, I might have had Thelma and Louise drive off into the sunset instead of over the cliff, and here's why." In a non-constructive critique group, you might hear, "What were you thinking when they drove off the cliff? That was HORRIBLE. I would have never done that." And just for you non-believers out there, I am not exaggerating my previous comment. There really are writers who talk to each other like that. REALLY!

The best part about my critique group is we care about each other getting published. We want to make each piece of work the best it can be, and we even offer market suggestions to each other. We listen to the other person's desires. We bring in articles about writing. We go to writing conferences together or bring in information about a great conference we discovered.

Are you tired of me gushing yet? I just want every writer to have such a wonderful experience, and so I am trying to describe everything I can think of that we do.

So, although Thanksgiving is over, and everyone is probably tired of listening to each other go on about what we are thankful for, I have to say that one thing I am very thankful for and very lucky to have is. . .my critique group. If you have any questions about how we run things or how we got started, please contact me! (margo@wow-womenonwriting.com)

Margo Dill
www.margodill.com

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4 Comments:

Blogger Sue said...

I'm happy for you! I'm not really sick of hearing what everyone is thankful for. Honestly, I haven't heard much thanks where it's due from many I know who do have a lot they should be thankful for. Usually, at this time of year, I hear a lot of complaints.

You make me want to go out and join or form a critique group! I used to attend a book club meeting once a month with mom friends. But they're not writers, so it was strictly books; well, actually, it was mostly about getting away from our family obligations and getting out together. The book of the month was the last thing we discussed. Unfortunately, I stopped going, but maybe I'll reconnect some time! Thanks for the push in the right direction. ;-)

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Annette said...

I agree. Critique groups rock! Mine is fantastic and they keep me writing and writing and writing so I'm grateful for the motivation but I'm also grateful to them because as a writer, I tend to get locked inside my own head and getting out and being social with like minded people keeps me sane.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Annette said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Annette said...

Hey Annette! My evil twin! ;-) I've only met two Annettes in my life and when I saw your post, I said, "Hey, when did I post that? Was I sleep typing?"

Your post was so similar to what I would write about the group I belong to. They were instrumental in helping me "pound the clay" to get my memoir ready for submission to agents.

Although, in my case, I haven't been "writing and writing"--the production and marketing aspect of getting my book out has consumed me completely. (Ok, and WOW stuff takes up a fair share of time.) ;-)

I can't WAIT for the day I can get back to being a writer again...

2:08 AM  

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