I just have to tell you that last night, for the first time in a decade, I slept in a paper-free bedroom. It took me exactly one month, but I purged all the papers from my room and it feels good. Thank you for bearing with me through that!
Today I'd like to talk to you about critique groups. As I've taught at different conferences over the years and spoken about critique groups, I inevitably get at least one person who says, "oh I don't need that," and "I could never let someone else read my writing before it's published."
And every time I hear it I want to shake my head because they are missing out on something that is incredibly helpful to a writer.
Critique groups can give your writing a polish that it wouldn't have otherwise. For example, I met with my critique group last Tuesday and we were critiquing chapters of mine that I'd already edited. I thought I was going to cruise through, but then one of the group pointed out a spot where the heroine's reaction was totally out of character, and another pointed out where the technology wasn't correct and would need to be changed. Was it make or break it for my book? No. But readers and editors and agents are looking for polished books without those sorts of minor mistakes and smooth writing. And that's the goal I'm shooting for. I want my writing to be the best it can be and I know that my critique group is helping me with that.
It took me a while to find a group, but I am so glad I never gave up looking. Making the right fit is important, because you want to have other writers who are about at the same level as you or a little higher, so you can all help each other and get the most out of it. You also want to make sure that you are ready for a good critique. My chapters have been shredded before,(quite recently, actually!) but as I sit there looking at all the red marks and notes in the margin, I know that it's going to make it a stronger story and I'm grateful for people who are willing to read my manuscript and help me make it better.
(I also am glad to have people who get me as a person and a writer, who know where I'm going with the story and characters and can help me get where I want to be. Plus, the group I'm with has a wicked sense of humor and we end up laughing through most of the evening.)
So, while I know some don't feel critique groups are needed or worth it, for me, they are worth their weight in gold. Editing mistakes, plot holes, and mischaracterization all come out in the pre-submit period, so that when you are ready to submit, you know it's really ready, if you get my drift. Your writing has that extra pair of eyes that have gone over it and you have the benefit of knowing you have fixed everything you could and done your best with the help of great critiques.
(And just to clarify, I'm not saying you have to have a traditional critique group that meets every week or anything. There are plenty of authors I know that do online critique groups.)
What do you think of critique groups? Do you have one? Why or why not?