One Writer’s Journey

January 4, 2018

Critique Group: One Way to Keep Your Writing in Perspective

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:23 am
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Yesterday I had a critique group meeting.  I almost didn’t bring my manuscript because I just wasn’t thrilled with it.

The funny thing? They really like it.  They laughed at the funny parts.  They loved that my main character was into science. And one person pointed out that the setting really came alive.

Not to say that they didn’t have things for me to fix.  This story is a fantasy.  One member wanted me to hint at it in chapter one instead of waiting until chapter two.  While her suggested change isn’t going to work, I’ll definitely come up with a way to hint at the fantastic element earlier in the story. I’m not sure how I’ll do it but I will definitely find a way.

The funny thing is that I mapped out a very successful fantasy before drafting my story.  Like mine, it is set in the “real” world.  I noted when the author brought in the first hint that her book was fantasy.  I noted it and I wondered – shouldn’t she have hinted at this earlier on?  But I decided to pace it her way and see if it worked.

Obviously, the answer is no.  No, it did not.

The great thing about a critique group is that they help you put things in perspective.  When you aren’t happy with a manuscript they can help you realize if the problem is your manuscript or that you simply didn’t get enough sleep last night and have a headache.

When you are so in love with your story that you can’t conceive of needing to change anything, your critique group can  let you know when you lack perspective and have waited too long to introduce something. They can point to purple prose. They can note places with too much or too little detail.

In short, a critique group can help you find the perspective that you might lack on your own.  If you don’t have a critique group, I would really recommend that you find one.

For another post on critique groups, check out “How to Revamp Your Critique Group.”

–SueBE

 

 

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July 20, 2011

5 Things You Need to Know about Critique Groups

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:37 am
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Lately I’ve had several people contact me hoping to find a critique group.  Here are 5 things you need to know when entering the world of critique groups:

  1. Critique groups are not one-size fits all.  Look for a group that writes what you are interested in.  Adult short stories are very different from picture books.  Also pay attention to the goals of the group:  people who write to publish will look at things differently than those who write just for fun.
  2. Learn the ropes.  Every group works a little differently.  Some read their work aloud.  Others pass it out ahead of time and return with comments.  Learn how this group works.
  3. Be ready to give.  A critique group is not a critique service.  If you only want feedback on your work but don’t want to critique the work of others, seek out a freelance editor or a critique service.  This attitude isn’t fair to the other writers.  If all you want is feedback on your own work, pay someone.
  4. Be ready to take.  When you join a critique group, expect feedback and it won’t all be positive.  Sometimes it may even be VERY negative.  Be ready to hear what other people say.  I do know of one group that insists you say nothing at all.  “No talking back.” But if you need clarification, ask.  If you need to say, “this is what I was trying to do,” in the hope that someone can help you figure out what you did wrong, then say it.
  5. Not all critiques are created equal.  Every once in a while, a member of the group will give you something that you simply do not connect with.  This happens most often to me with preschool picture books, a fact that I usually reveal when I prove to be 90% useless.  I know people who cannot critique fantasy.  Or picture books.  It happens.
Critique groups are essential to improving your writing.  Take the time to find one that works for you and don’t be surprised if you have to try on several groups.  Finding the right group is definitely worth your while.

–SueBE

May 26, 2009

Writing is a lot like Driving. . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:14 am
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Writing is a lot like driving.  Most days I do fine on my own.  I get where I’m going without a hitch.  Some days, things don’t go as planned. 

The other day I pulled up to a stop sign and tried to shift back to first, but the stick was all loosey goosey.  We were within sight of the house so I sent my son to fetch our 21 year old neighbor.  Pretty soon he had recruited his brother and his nephew and two of their friends.  I steered while a mixed band of 7  (remember I’m a chidren’s writer/most of the people I know are pretty small) pushed my car up the street.  They had a blast and I’m sure we were quite a sight.

Have you ever been working on a manuscript only to realize something isn’t right but you can’t quite put your finger on the problem?  You need someone to give you a push in the right direction.

Fortunately, I have a great critique group.  We are notoriously free with our opinions, playing in each other’s sandboxes (messing with each other’s stories) with abandon.  I know I can drop something in their laps and say, “It doesn’t work.  What’s up?” 

Sometimes I’ve got a character doing what I want them to do when it simply isn’t a good fit with who they are. 

Other times I’ve got a full page of picture book text before the story actually starts.  Toss it aside and I’ve got a streamlined beginning. 

Most days my writing and my driving spin along pretty well.  Other days a need a helpful push.

–SueBE

January 22, 2009

How To Take a Critique

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:33 pm
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groupDo you have a critique group?  If not, you should.  Everyone needs feedback on their work and people who know you and your writing are the best place to get it.

This isn’t to say that when someone gives you a critique that you should make the changes as if you are going down a check list.

  1. Fix spelling error.
  2. Move comma.
  3. Her eyes were green in paragraph 2.  When did they turn brown?
  4. Does anyone actually say this?

What it does mean is that you need to read their comments and see what isn’t working.  If they question a character’s motivation, you may not have done a good enough job setting it up.  Do you use both scenes and sequels?  Sequels can be incredibly short, just a line or even a few words, but they give your character a chance to reflect on recent events. 

If your critiquers think your story ends too soon, you may not have tied things up neatly.  This doesn’t mean you need to use their suggested ending, but do look at your climax and denouement.  Is it satisfying?  Or does it feel like you’ve cut things off?

When two or more people make similar comments, pay attention.  This may be a weak point in your manuscript.  You don’t have to use any of the suggested fixes, but you should look at this part of the story and see what isn’t working and how to fix it. 

True, some people simply won’t “get” your work and their comments may not be terribly helpful.  But if you constantly write off the critiques you receive, you’re probably missing an opportunity to grow.  How can you help your reader grow if you aren’t willing to do it yourself?

–SueBE

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