Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Writer Critique Groups

There are many reasons we should be in a well-organized writer’s critique group. I’ve been in several with one group having around ten members, and one made up of just me and another writer. I have grown as a writer from belonging to each of these groups.

My current group has been going strong for seven years, and I’ve been with them from the beginning. There are six of us ladies, and two are illustrators as well. We critique one another’s work by way of Email. We’ve been fortunate to meet from time to time at various Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators workshops, retreats, and conferences. Sadly, all six of us haven’t been together at the same time. I had just moved to Oregon the last time the other five met for a SCBWI function.

Within our group, some are book published, and some are magazine and/or newsletter published. We come from various backgrounds and levels of education. We are moms. The tie that binds us together, though, is the reason we are a group: to see our words in print.

One of the needs for a successful critique group is to have respect for one another’s work. Easily done in our group of ladies. Also, we discuss the business end of writing and the craft of writing. We share information on agents and editors when we think it will help the group or individuals. It’s also nice to share in an occasional chat about daily life going on around us. My group has been there for me through several hardships, even. They are my good friends.

I read somewhere that when a writer gives a suggestion that something is not working within the story, they better suggest a way it might work. I like this thought, but sometimes we don’t always know why something isn’t working. I remember early on in my writing career, I never knew why my critique partner’s work felt off here or there within the story. She said it didn’t matter, she would figure out what to do. Just the fact I knew something didn’t ring true helped her. She found that every time I sensed an off part in the story, she discovered a problem within the manuscript.

I think it played out that way because before I wrote stories, I read a lot. This goes to show that if you care about words and wish to join a group, you can contribute. No matter that you are a beginning writer.

When I joined the SCBWI over thirteen years ago, they sent a nice packet of information. One article showed how to start a critique group. Also occasionally, there are articles about writer’s groups in the SCBWI Bulletin. Also, Ann Whitford Paul’s newest book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication has a chapter on critique groups. It’s getting good reviews so you may want to read it.

There are tried and true rules and room for flexibility to a well-run writer's group. Once that is understood, we’re able to enjoy, learn, and contribute our best as writers.

Until next time . . .


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