Before I get started on today's topic, I want to announce my guest blogger for tomorrow, Rabbi Ilene Schneider, author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries. One of the fun things about mystery writing is finding that special niche that suits the author and doesn't mimic the millions of other mysteries on the market. A female sleuth who's also a rabbi? Sounds like the makings of a great read. Please stop back tomorrow and read Rabbi Schneider's thoughts on inspiration and where to find it.
And now for the main event: I Love My Critique Group
Raintree Writers (as we call ourselves) reviewed the rewritten and revised first chapter of Wishing Caswell Dead. I received their verbal and written comments at our Monday night meeting. The feedback was encouraging. I think I'm headed in the right direction.
I have changed about ten chapters from first person to third person with the main character's voice carried through the narrative as well as the dialogue. This makes the main character's chapters consistent with the secondary characters' chapters.
My question for the critique group was, "Did I get it right? Does the narrative work?"
Happily, they agree I'm on the right track. I still have some fine-tuning to do, but I feel more comfortable now finishing the rewrite and then completing my self-editing chores.
A great critique group is supportive, but honest. In an ideal group, individual members tend to focus on different elements of writing. While one member might provide line-by-line editing notes on grammar and punctuation, another might focus on inconsistencies in a character's behavior.
At the meeting, one member mentioned he'd used purple highlighting to show me the things he liked in the chapter. A second member highlighted all the places I'd used "was" and words ending in "ing," symptoms of passive language. A third member zeroed in on the timeline of the first chapter which includes a flashback. I picked up additional ideas during the discussion.
While many writers prefer genre-specific groups, others like a membership with eclectic interests. Both are useful, but I like a mix-up of projects. I think we learn more that way. Raintree Writers now includes one author of horror and other dark fiction. We have a literary guy with a bit of the paranormal in his projects. Another writer finished a women's novel and then turned to a non-fiction historical project. One is writing a historical novel based on her father's experience during World War II. A member currently on leave writes YA fiction. I'm writing mystery and suspense. Two of us are published in long fiction and one in short stories (eight so far this year).
How did we find each other? The founding members of Raintree Writers, all female, attended the same novel writing class at the end of 2003. Folks have come and gone, but a core group of four originals still belong. The two extra members we now have include the instructor of the 2003 novel writing class, and a writer the instructor recommended. The group now contains four women and two men.
I credit my group with providing the moral support and encouragement that kept me writing and submitting. I would hate to go it alone.