Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Critique Groups Provide First-Aid for Writers, Part II

A critique group is vital to the development of a writer, not only in the realm of the craft of writing but the emotional ups and downs associated with publishing. Here's an inside look at the critique group to which I belong.

Members of my group provide emotional support for each other. If a member has a manuscript rejected or another personal problem, we listen and provide words of encouragement. When a member receives good news, we perform a chocolate dance in celebration.

Each month, a member is responsible for generating a weekly newsletter that provides news about grants, conferences, and all aspects of writing, marketing, and promoting our work. Since my group consists of four people, I will be responsible for the newsletter three months (twelve weeks) per year.

The primary purpose of a critique group is to read and evaluate works in progressfor each member. My group submits manuscripts, a maximum of 1,000 words per submission, on the first and fifteenth of each month. That means that each membercritiques three, 1,000-word manuscripts every two weeks. That also means that each member receives three critiques per manuscript every two weeks. Critique groups require a vast amount of time and effort from each member to be successful, but the rewards gained are invaluable.

If you decide to join or form a critique group, set guidelines. How often will members submit work? What is the time period for critiquing and returning each manuscript? What is the maximum number of words per submission? How extensive are the critiques, line-by-line or general overview? Set guidelines on allowing additional membership once the group is established. Remember to critique the manuscript, not the writer. Be respectful of the writer at all times. Be honest in your critique.

I want the members of my group to be honest in each evaluation of my work and react to my manuscripts as an editor would. Anything less than total honesty is of no benefit to me. I want to know WHY my manuscript didn’t get the contract and HOW I can improve it. If I could figure out WHY and HOW on my own, I wouldn’t need a critique group. The honesty of each member and their varied viewpoints can only make my work stronger, better, and more likely to be accepted for publication. Therefore, I have a responsibility of not taking the criticism personally. I wear my rhino hide when I read the critiques and often think AHA! She’s right! when I read a criticism or a suggestion. Why didn’t I see that? Because I only see from one perspective—mine.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nancy, we just started a SCBWI group in Roanoke, Virginia. We have five members and each of us contribute to the group in different ways. We are alike and yet so different too. It's a wonderful thing. So glad to have found your blog! I look forward to reading more.

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