Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Love My Critique Group

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.


Jan Morrison said...

Oh, I'm envious. Yes, I have Gwen - my writing group of one and while we do look at each other's work that isn't our main reason for being. I think I need a crit group. I'm going to go out there and find one! Now.

N. R. Williams said...

The colored critique is a great idea, I will suggest it to my critique group. I actually have two. I am the moderator of a face-to-face group, the membership in this groups comes and goes as people get published. Then I just joined an online group. Both have their advantages. I too believe that without their encouragement I may not still be creating fantastical stories, at least I wouldn't be sharing them.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Margot Kinberg said...

Patricia - I'm so glad you have such a wonderful critique group. Other people's views can be so very helpful when one's writing. I think it also helps to just know that each member of the group is going through the same process. You're fortunate to have found a very supportive group.

Karen Walker said...

Sounds like a very supportive and helpful group, Patricia. You're lucky. I am going to meet with some folks next week for the first time to see if there is the possibility for a critique/support group there. All of us have taken workshops with the same writing coach.

Ann Best said...

This sounds like such a wonderful group. You are so fortunate!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I used to belong to a poetry group which had a critique section I used to love that also.
You are lucky to have such a group.
Enjoyed the post very much.


Kay said...

Highlighting what you like? What a novel idea ... and positive. Usually, my highlights tend towards the negative comments. Things I like end up in little brackets.

Maybe I should reverse the process on my critiques ... except for maybe the "to-bes" and "ings". I highlight those in my own stuff.

Enjoy your group. Their worth is beyond measure.

Clarissa Draper said...

I love my critique group too. I've been with them for about three years and it's worth all the time and effort I've spent with them.


Jemi Fraser said...

I stumbled into an amazing online group completely through luck. They are incredible!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you have such a great group!

irishoma said...

You are so right, Patricia.
I love my critique group, too. We are a group of mixed genres and experience levels. I always learn something, even if it's not about my own piece.
Good post.
Donna V.

Anonymous said...

Having critique groups are great. I have a group of individuals who critique my manuscripts. But overall, everything pretty much stays the same. Maybe I'm stubborn. One thing I ask is to tell me if I'm offending a particular group of people. Sometimes in the heat of the battle of writing I tend to escalate events and dialogue and sometimes say things that are over the top.

Stephen Tremp