Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Critique Group and What It Does for Me ... by Marilyn Meredith

The reason I chose this topic is I read through Patricia’s blog posts and learned that she belonged to a critique group and how it affects her writing.

I joined the critique group that I belong to now way back in 1981. The critique and members have changed over the years, just as I have as a writer.

Way back then, even though I’d already written several books—and one even got published the very next year—there was lots I didn’t know about writing. Marketing was a topic I hadn’t even thought about.

The biggest plus of belonging to the group in the beginning was learning lots more about writing. I learned how to make dialogue that moved the plot along and revealed character, and sounded realistic. I learned the importance of character development. I learned how setting could influence the plot. And one of the most important things I learned was more about point-of-view.

I also learned how to critique other people’s work in a helpful manner. Critiquing others made me see errors in my own work.

Today I think of my critique group as my first editor. The members hear each and every chapter. Because we bring enough copies of our chapter for each person to write on, besides giving oral critiques, they can also find typos and write notes on them for the author to peruse later.

Frankly, I would be disappointed if my fellow authors didn’t find mistakes or give suggestions as to how I can make the chapter better. If they didn’t, there would be no point in my going.

Our group is also good about sharing marketing ideas. I’ve done presentations with various members of the group.

And perhaps, even more important, is the members of this group have become good friends. We are a diverse bunch. I’m the only mystery writer. One of our members is a retired Honors English teacher and she’s written and published several books including a romance and a YA. Another, a grammar school teacher, has a couple of YA books published and is writing another. Another of the women has self-published a memoir and is writing her mother’s biography while another young woman is writing about her experiences of having Valley Fever. On the male side, is a rancher who writes a weekly column for the newspaper and is writing a YA. And we have a pediatrician who is writing stories about his childhood growing up in India. Young and older, male and female, they each have a different perspective of the work being read.

One other value of the critique group is, at least for me, knowing that I have a meeting coming up each week keeps me writing ahead, so I always have a chapter to read.

They heard and commented on each chapter of my latest book in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Murder in the Worst Degree.

Blurb: The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.

Contest: Once again I am offering the opportunity to have your name used as a character in a book if you comment on the most blogs during this tour for Murder in the Worst Degree. Tomorrow you can find me at Earl Staggs' blog. The rest of the blog tour stops are listed on my website.

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F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand.

Learn more about Marilyn and her novels at her website and blog (Marilyn's Musings). She can also be found on Facebook

21 comments:

Susan Vittitow Mark said...

I have found critique groups to be invaluable, whether I simply needed some cheerleading, or whether I needed a piece ripped apart to make it better. The important thing to remember with a critique group is that they all come to the piece as readers. Readers with more knowledge than the average person, but still readers. If I want to know if I'm connecting with readers, my critique group is a good first place to go.

Trisha F said...

That is so cool you've belonged to the same group for all that time!

I definitely agree it's important for anyone critiquing your work to point out mistakes if they find any! That's what critiquing is all about. :) And for me, it's quite a satisfying feeling going through the revision process ... even if the one I'm currently going through is sort of painful! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Though I am not a part of any critique group I have a few crit partners who I met through blogging. Their feedback is precious to me.

Dean K Miller said...

A critique group is one of the many benefits of the writer community.

Currently I'm not in one, but know I will find one in the future when the timing is right.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I was so surprised and pleased to already see comments on my blog post today. Patricia, thank you so much for hosting me today. Susan, Trisha, Rachna, and Dean, thanks so much for your comments. Glad we all agree that being critiqued is helpful. Need I say it again? I love my critique group.

Huntress said...

A lady commented that she didn't want to hear others critique her work, especially grammar and punctuation.

Ack! I didn't have a chance to ask her about plot and continuity, LOL

I call my CPs my Pearls of Great Price. I couldn't do it without them.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Huntress, we have lost people in our group who only wanted praise, not critiques. Then don't come to a critique group--right?

Yolanda Renee said...

A writing group or two are important tools on the way to becoming a better writer - the wealth of knowledge is unbeatable!

35 published books stand as testament!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Marilyn, Thanks so much for being here today. A blog book tour takes a lot of time and effort, so I'm always happy when I can help by being a tour host. Now I'm off to spread the word about your post on Facebook and Twitter!

And as you know, I love my own critique group. They're detailed and conscientious and the brainstorming sessions we've had have been priceless.

paulfahey said...

Marilyn, POV is something I worry about. Glad you mentioned it. Usually I keep a scene to one POV or if I break the scene into parts, I can go to another POV, but it's tricky as wobbles sometimes happen. Great post as usual.

amreade said...

I joined a critique group last year, and I have a separate critiquing partner, and I have found both experiences to be invaluable. It's great to share ideas and constructive critiques with others who care as much about writing as I do. I'm very thankful for all of them. I'm hoping to help other writers start up critique groups in my area (South NJ), too. Great idea for a post!

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Marilyn, I found this post especially pertinent because I wrote about something that came out of an LCC session. It's called Dump Your Critique Group! I gave it that title to be provocative. Just for the record, I am in three groups (over the year depending on location)so I've had decades of experience with critique groups. But these authors were adamant you shouldn't be in one. So I wrote about it at http://www.samwriteaway.blogspot.com
I'd love to talk about this at PSWA!

David P. King said...

I'd be lost without my CP group.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Marilyn is an inspiration. I admire her persistence and wisdom. She is right about the value of a critique group. A good one is worth its weight in gold -- and ink!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I went grocery shopping and while I was gone, received all these great comments. Thank you Yolanda, AMReade, Donna and David. Sharon, I can't imagine not going to a critique group. After all, you don't have to do everything/anything they suggest, the book is still yours. (Final decision. And in my case it's still going to go through an editor and my publisher.)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia and Marilyn - sounds like a fantastic symbiotic relationship for the past x years!

This was a fabulous read about Critique Groups and how helpful they can be ..

Cheers Hilary

LD Masterson said...

Hi Marilyn. I'm envious of your critique group. I'm currently without one. Hope when I find a new one, it's as good as yours.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Hilary, it has been great, but I should point out that people have come and gone over the years.

Linda, I love my group. We do visit a bit, but mostly it's down to business.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Marilyn, thanks so much for being here, and good luck on the rest of your tour. You're a great guest. I'd welcome you back anytime.

The Stiletto Gang said...

I loved my visit here, Patricia, and thank you again!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Of course that last from The Stiletto Gang was me, just didn't change.