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.