Monday, June 28, 2010

Critique Groups

I'm working on pages to send to my in person critique group. I love when my pgs are already written and all I have to do is edit/revise them enough for my two crit partners to read.

I know a lot of writers wait until they have the book written or substantially written before they allow others to read it. I find, though, that meeting regularly keeps me on track. It forces me to move forward no matter how much I want to rewrite and revise the first part of the book.  I think of my in person critique group as my  "development" team and we do a lot of brainstorming so by the time I get to the end of the book the first time it ends up being closer to a second or third draft because I've been over the pages a couple of times. 

Meeting other writers in person is the single most important thing that has me moving forward. Twice a month I have to show up with new pages - or make an excuse why I can't. And believe me when I have to say out loud those lame excuses I give myself for  not writing, I buckle down and actually produce pages.

I also have an online critique group, They see my pages after the in person critique group has weighed in and I've made any changes I agree with. Sometimes I ditch the pages or entirely rewrite the chapters before they go to the online critique group. One of the writers in my online group is a published author in the series I'm targeting so I'm very lucky to have her comments on issues that are unique to series romance; the degree of alphaness, the glamor factor, etc.

It took several years and several critique group set ups for me to find what works. I write contemporary series romance and both my in person CP's write contemporary woman's fiction, but they do have an affinity for series. I don't think there's anything more damaging than writing in a genre that your critique partners don't get. Since we're writing different genres, we do have to step back sometimes or qualify our suggestions because the different genres demand different things. And if a partner doesn't understand that it can lead to difficulties.

Do you have a critique group or partners? Do you meet in person or online? Send pages as you write or when completed? Have you tried arrangements that haven't worked?

I'm off to complete those edits on this rainy Monday morning.


Kelly Boyce said...

Pam and I used to meet every 2 weeks but now with her insane schedule we get together when we can and have decided rather than a chapter by chapter critique to do big chunks or full mss. I miss meeting regularly, you're right it definitely keeps you on track - but so long as we both keep getting something useful out of it that's the main thing.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Kelly, it took years for me to find a group that works. We all live within ten minutes of each so that helps. And now that my girls are older I have more flexibility about times.

Also we all write slowly so none of us feels left behind by not being more prolific.

But people's lives change all the time so I'm a little surprised we've managed to keep it going so long.

Julia Smith said...

I used to meet with two wonderful CP's, but there was definitely a genre challenge involved. But while I was with this group, the regular schedule of meeting definitely helped with page output! And the feedback I got for that year was completely valuable - I still hear the reminder in my head: 'But I don't know what she's feeling.'

Anne MacFarlane said...

Julia, I hear the voices of my CP's even when I'm reading other people's books.

Cat Schield said...

Years ago I was with a crit group. I remember it being a little frustrating because one person dominated. It's made me leery of joining another.

I have a friend I critique with. It's chapter by chapter but more when the book is nearly there.

Recently 8 of us that finaled in the Golden Heart this year formed an on-line critique group. One is already pubbed, I think 5 of us have agents already. We're spread across different genres, YA, historical, contemporary, mainstream. I'm eager to see how that works out.

It must be nice to have Jen looking at your stuff. I imagine she gives you all sorts of insights into writing for Desire. Plus, you get to see her process in action as well. Very cool!

Anne MacFarlane said...

Cat, the GH crit group sounds interesting and I like all those genres you mentioned. I critique urban fantasy for friends who are published and suspense/mystery for a two-time GH finalist. They're all fabulous writers and I absolutely love reading their stories.

And I'm very lucky to have Jen as a CP. Very valuable to have the inside scoop on the series I'm targeting. But one thing about Jen, she writes a whole lot faster than I do.