Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Critique group!

I had a fantastic experience last night with my new critique group.  As I said before I was a little worried because all the members of the group are also members of a fairly conservative religion, with which my writing is a little at odds.

As most time spent worrying usually is, mine was a waste.  Last night I found myself in a group of very talented writers who are also astute readers and critiquers.  The whole experience, from reading their work, to getting their opinions on my own was fabulous.  The thing I liked the best about them was that, while they did point out several turns of phrase or descriptive passages they enjoyed, they didn't waste time complimenting me or each other and pussy footing around what was wrong with the writing they read. 

This may sound like I'm bragging, but I know I'm a good writer.  I don't need people to tell me that.  What I do need is people to tell me how I can be a better writer.  These ladies passed on that count with flying colors. In fact, they did such a great job of setting a fire under me, I came home and stayed up until one a.m. (one a.m. people!  I'm pregnant and have a toddler.  That is a huge freaking deal in my world.) rewriting my prologue. If you'd like to see the difference you can read my pre-critique prologue here and the post-critique prologue here.  And, as I said, reading their work was almost as enjoyable as getting their opinions on mine.

I'm wondering if others have had mostly positive or negative experiences with critique groups or partners and, if so, what made it that way for you?

18 comments:

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I am so stoked for you!

So far my experiences have been okay - sometimes great and sometimes not. I think one thing that made my group not so great was that not everyone took their writing (and our time) as seriously as I do.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Shortly after entering the blogging world, I realized that regardless of how well we write, we all need a critique group. I didn't have one. I mentioned in a post that I was planning to find some partners, and by the end of the day I was part of a three-person group. It has worked wonderfully for me - better than anticipated. It's important to work with people who understand the ins and outs of our process and who are good writers themselves.

Thanks for visiting me at Book Dreaming today! :-)

JustineDell said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower! I've done that same ;-)

~JD

Jaydee Morgan said...

I've never been a part of a critique group - although I'd love to find one in my area. I have, however, had a great critique partner in the past. Hearing the good plus what needs work is an awesome thing to have. I'm glad you found such a great group.

I'll definitely be checking out your writing - and your blog. Thanks for stopping by today.

Jen said...

I was actually blessed to have made a critique group with some fellow bloggers so all of ours has to be done online since we live at different places in the states but I really enjoyed it... we are all newbies so we are all learning with one another, I was slightly worried but much like you was put to ease the minute we started! I look forward to getting my work back and seeing what they have to say!!

Next stop face to face crit group!! AHH I don't know if I can handle it, lol

Jennifer Shirk said...

That is fantastic! It's so hard to find a good crit group!

I've belonged to a few crit groups--briefly--before I finally found the one I'm with now. We've been together for about 5 years now.

I think what didn't work for me in the other groups is that I got more comma corrections than actual story or character problems. Plus, I think I just click socially with the group I'm with now. :)

Charmaine Clancy said...

I was part of an online group, which is great, but with online things I find I keep forgetting to check in because there are no set times. An actual local meet-up would be great.

Kaylie said...

I'm happy for you to find a critique group. I love the ladies in mine.
Can I comment on what you wrote? I think it's a really good start. I couldn't stop reading, which is saying something, for a blog. I noticed you slowed the pace on the second version, which is great for adding details, but since it's not as action-packed now (and it's also long), I'm wondering if it works better as a first chapter rather than a prologue. I don't know if you've written more to follow it, but I think you could just keep going with the plot instead of jumping in somewhere else like you would with a prologue. I certainly wanted to find out what was next!

Talli Roland said...

That's brilliant!

I've had both kinds of experiences with writing groups. One I went to was so complimentary it was sort of a waste of time. I don't need my ego stroked! (It's nice, yes, but I wanted to get better!). The other was one where people would tell it like it is and give their honest opinion. I found that really useful.

Glad you had such a great experience!

Angie Paxton said...

Rebecca, the other critique group I attended last month very much gave me that feeling, that writing was just kind of a on and off again hobby that took a pretty low spot on their list of priorities. I hope you find a good group or at least a good partner.

Shannon, thanks for reciprocating on following. I'm so glad you found a good group. After just one meeting I can already tell that a good critique group can make the difference between an adequate book and a really good one.

Justine, thanks for reciprocating.

Jaydee, thanks to you too for reciprocating. I hope you can find a good group or crit partner.

Jen, I did the online thing too for awhile, but it didn't have the same kind of feel as the face to face thing did. I was really nervous for the face to face group too, but it really worked out. Good luck finding one!

Jennifer, thanks for reciprocating on following. I'm so glad you found a long term group. I'm hoping this one will work into a long term thing for me too. That was one of the things I loved about this group. They put punctuation and grammar corrections etc, on the paper copies I gave them, but the discussion centered solely on what could be done to make my work stronger as far as characterization, plot, etc.

Charmaine, good luck finding a local group. By the way, I love your daughters' blog. It's so cute and I think its so great you're doing that with them.

Kaylie, thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing and for letting me know what you thought. The reason I set this up as a prologue was because it takes place ten years before the actual story starts and yeah, I have written more. I'm about 60,000 words in. One of the ladies at the crit group also mentioned the possibility of just making this a first chapter. Hmm, something to think about.

Talli, it sounds like you completely understand why this group was such a great experience for me. Ego schmego, I want to know how to get better!

Thanks all for stopping by and commenting!

Cynthia Reese said...

Angie, it's funny ... my CP Tawna writes far differently than me (she writes romantic comedy while I'm more at home writing stuff that won't make the ladies at my church blush), but we GET each other on a writing level.

We were just musing the other day about how we should do blog posts on how well we work together, though our writing is worlds apart. Hmmm ... maybe we should!

Elana Johnson said...

I've had a really great live crit group for 2 years. They are amazing. I've been in online gropus that come and go, and most of them I like. Sometimes, though, there are destructive ones. I've gotten away from those as fast as possible. They can make or break you, I think.

Matthew Rush said...

The only problem with critiques I've had are finding people willing to give them. Now that I finally have a Beta Reader I am anxiously awaiting his feedback.

MoonGarden said...

ooh,is it actually going to let me post this time?

I've tried posting several times before, but it never worked, hopefully now it will.

I don't have much to say this time except, I'd like to read your WIP. Also, I need to find a writing group so that I actually have to get something down for them to read. :) Since you've offered to read for me, maybe you need to give me deadlines, I work very well with deadlines.

Angie Paxton said...

Cynthia,I think those posts from you and Tawna would be great. I for one would be really interested in reading them.

Elana, after my experiences in the past month with two different crit groups I absolutely agree. They definitely can have a huge impact on your writing.

Matthew, good luck with your beta. I hope he turns out to be good for you and your writing.

Moongarden, are you Marilyn? I looked at your blogs, but I couldn't tell from the teeny tiny picture.

MoonGarden said...

Yes Angie, moongarden= Marilyn. I still need to figure out many things regarding blogging, including how to change my profile.

...but since navegating on my phone is severely limited, it will just have to stay as it is for the time being.

Angie Paxton said...

Marilyn thanks for commenting. As far as deadlines and such I would definitely try to find a live writing group. I work much better knowing that I have to be accountable to someone I'm going to see face to face on a regular basis.

MoonGarden said...

Ok, so I finally read the two versions of your prologue, and I have to be honest, I like the original better.

It felt more real to me. The characters and situation more believable.

The revised prologue had more movement and action, because things were happening TO your narrator instead of her fearfully watching from the hall, but I had a harder time believing the scene would really play out the way it did. The actions of the characters felt almost forced and unnatural.

The original felt very real, more true, how it would really happen. The characters were very believable. As I read it I could see it happening and believe the scene was real. The girl cowering in the hall, the mom wilting in fear, and even the sudden snap of the Mother, her wake up moment, I believed it in the original while the re-write felt forced to me.