Tuesday, December 15, 2009

To Join or Not to Join

I have been writing a lot lately. I am finally over 25,000 words into the second draft of my novel. Sometimes, I find myself writing like a madwoman with no control, eager to get the scenes onto paper. Other times, I write slowly, contemplating each word as if I were moving through fog . However, I always try to do my best work as I go.

Recently, the Writer’s Digest forum had an interesting discussion on critique groups. The viewpoints on whether or not to join a critique group varied. Some writers, specifically those who have been writing for pay for years, believe that critique groups can do more harm than good. Other writers believe that critique groups are all the rage, because others can catch spelling and grammar errors and teach them how to be better writers.

One seasoned writer/editor suggested that if a writer chooses a critique group, that their work must be written as well as if it were ready to go to an editor or publisher. In other words, the work must have been written, rewritten and edited to a professional level. I agree with this writer/editor one hundred percent.

I participate in a critique group for thriller writers. Sure, we catch each other’s spelling and grammar errors, but the purpose of the group is to give and receive feedback on the story itself, on what works and what does not. I am certain that we all present our very best writing at each group.

We have been together almost a year, and we are still going strong. I would encourage any writer to join a critique group once they have a well-polished draft.

In the meantime, happy writing!

4 comments:

pls said...

Critique groups are not for the faint of heart. Those who join them merely to be "stroked" soon find that other writers don't tolerate phonies, even though they are quick to praise and support others who may be struggling to place their efforts with an agent or publisher. The children's writing group I belong to in the past year has left several would-be writers behind, but those of us who have thick skins, placeable manuscripts, and attainable goals thrive in the monthly give-and-take atmosphere. A writer who finds that s/he doesn't "fit" in a group may be bringing substandard work to the group and may need to find a new "hobby". Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, and just as agents filter submissions to publishers nowadays, some writing groups serve as filters also, bruised egos notwithstanding. Hey, other community organizations need people to help out, too!

Susan Littlefield said...

Paul,

Our critique group has discussed that if any of us feels our work was critiqued unfairly, to step forward. None of us have ever done that, even though the group, including myself, can be pretty straight-forward in our critiques. We always say what we like and what we don't like and why. I feel really blessed to have found this critique group.

Our group is five people, and we are all very serious about our writing. We have all been published in one way or another (short stories, articles), but none of us have written novels.

Jai Joshi said...

There've been so many threads on the forum about critique groups that I've stopped reading them. No point.

The only thing worth saying, that you haven't mentioned already, is that critique groups are really for about moral support. Not the writing, not the spelling, not the grammar, not the story - the moral support.

Writing is a solitary job and it can be very lonely. Being around other writers helps.

Jai

Susan Littlefield said...

Hi Jai,

It's great to see you dropped in on my blog. You must still be in India?

I agree, the bottom line is that writing IS a lonely job. We need other writers to commune with- I know a good portion of our group is spent catching up before we get into the critiques.

As for the critiques themselves, if two or more have pointed out the same thing, I will take a look at it and most likely conclude that something needs to be changes. If just one says "it doesn't work for me," then I think, "well, does it work for me?" But, the real bottom line is that I love meeting with these wonderful people twice a month.

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