Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ya Gotta Have Friends

For the most part, writing is a solitary experience. We peck away at our keyboards, getting paler, fatter, thinner, balder (in my case, grayer). Every so often I tear myself away and enjoy the company of a group of women I respect: my critique group.

I didn't come by this group easily. It was a process years in the making, going through the right mesh of personalities, wisdom, butt-kicking, and nurturing. We talk books, craft, family, and The Work. Always, The Work.

I am with them right now. [Update: I'm back. We discussed Vogler's Hero's Journey and drank a magnum of champagne. Corking good time.]

Today we are celebrating milestones and discussing disappointments. In this group I hold the title Queen of the Rejections (13 so far for my current project), but these folks don’t look on them as a badge of shame. On the contrary, they’re a badge of honor. It means I’m walking the walk. And they are also walking the walk.

A critique group can do incalculable harm or it can be the wind beneath your wings (hackneyed metaphor, sorry) but whether your CP is trusted a trusted buddy or a group of writers you barely know, you must have one. A writer gets too close to their own work to see the flaws. It’s imperative to have fresh eyes, but those eyes should belong to someone who also Walks the Walk. BFFs or your mom can stroke the ego and make you feel good, but unless that person knows the craft of writing, any feedback will be nigh useless and potentially damaging.

How do you find a good critique group/person?

You could go my route, joining a writer’s group and being burned to a cinder in that process before finding the Right Ones. Or you could join a number of online writer’s groups. Some writers swear by the online groups. One advantage to them is utter honesty. It’s harder to critique someone if you can see the tears filming up. A disadvantage is utter honesty. Sometimes brutal feedback can ruin a writer for years.

Whatever you decide to do, do it soon. The biggest gift a writer can get are folks who can give a good critique.


Blogger Allison Brennan said...

13 rejections? That's nothing. I had over 40 with both of my first two books. :)

I agree, there's nothing better than a supportive crit group. You're lucky to have each other!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Melly said...

Good advice!
And keep walking the walk... :)

1:18 PM  
Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

I found a great critique group about two years ago - just me and two other gals. Unfortunately, we all got caught up with life - two of us with new jobs and new directions.

I really enjoy visiting your blog. :-)

3:15 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Bolton said...

LOL, Allison. I have 13 with THIS book. I haven't counted the grand total over the years, but I'm pretty sure you have me beat with 40. :-)

4:37 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Bolton said...

Thanks for checking us out melissa. Hi there, Melly! I'm in an expansive mood now...booze really brightens me up.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Elena Greene said...

Nothing else in writing seems to be easy, so why should finding good CPs be any different? Ugh.

I think it's important to keep your goals in mind and be sure what you want. If you say you are seeking to improve your writing, but really just want reassurance that you are "on the right track", you could be in for trouble.

It's also a mistake to subject work to critique at too early a phase. It's easy to get discouraged if people can't see the pearls in your gungy first draft.

But groups that are all warm and fuzzy don't, I think, help people keep writing. At some point your muse knows it isn't any good and shuts down anyway.

OTOH if you are willing to hogtie your ego and humble yourself to learn, you might get burned, but you may eventually find the right people who will challenge you to meet your maximum potential.

None of this is without pain, of course. That's what the bubbly and chocolate are for. :)

9:09 AM  
Blogger Tess said...

Yep, good CPs are invaluable. I'd be lost without mine!!

11:05 AM  
Blogger Therese Walsh said...

Welcome to Melissa!

A bad critique group can be truly poisonous, but a good one is golden. The chocolate and mimosas don't hurt, either. ;)

8:25 PM  

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