So, you all know I do an in-person critique group with Jordan McCollum and Emily Clawson. We started meeting a year ago now and while it's been wonderful and I've learned a lot, we do things a little different in our group. Jordan McCollum posted her thoughts about it here, but I remember things a tiny bit differently. (Different POV and all that. See how I worked that in? Gold star for me!)
When we first started meeting we were each critiquing a chapter per person and meeting twice a month. It was fun, but as Jordan points out, it would take us about a year to get through a novel for someone and how by the end of the book, would we really even remember what the characters were doing in the beginning?
Jordan claims she was reading some lady's blog about critique groups and suggested we read one person's work and a lot more pages, but I remember it more as, one of us had a deadline and asked if we could read fifty or so of her pages. Then it grew into a discussion about, why don't we just take two months, read and critique her book in quarters and help her meet her deadline. (So, Jordan probably was thinking about some lady's blog while we were discussing. She's a veritable fountain of knowledge. Seriously, she is! Ask her anything and she probably knows or has read something about it. She also enjoys drowning my manuscripts in red ink a little too much I think. But I digress.)
Anyway, it sounded like such a great idea because I had a deadline coming up as well, so, that's how we started to work all the time. Each of us has a turn to be the one with a manuscript on the sacrificial critique table, to be ripped apart and then put back together in about a two month span. So far, it's worked great for us. (And I'm grateful no matter how it came about because it's an invaluable tool. I recommend Jordan read more blog posts from this lady so we can all benefit).
The thing was, we were reading the manuscript out loud each time and with spending a few (or four) hours socializing first, we were getting home at 1 or 2 in the morning every time. Which makes for tired mamas the next day. So, in December, when we were running out of time and one of us wasn't feeling well, we just went over our notes which brought out some really great discussion on characterization, plot holes, what wasn't working, and honestly, it was one of the best brainstorming sessions I've ever been a part of. Not only were we helping her with her manuscript, but it was making connections in my brain for my own manuscript and was incredibly motivating. So when we got together this week, I suggested we do that every time. And it worked again. It was energizing and fun, and we still got to socialize a lot in between our discussions. I was even home by midnight! Win/win for all of us. (Although it's almost my turn for my manuscript to be critiqued. I guess I better get going on those revisions! Eep.)
I'm glad our group has been able to evolve and change to meet our needs. It's been fun to see my own writing get better, not only as I'm critiqued, but also as I sit and critique for others. I've noticed things about my writing that I've never seen before and it's been helpful to be around other writers who are as anxious as I am to improve. Plus, we're all about on the same writing level which is a rare find and something I am glad about.
Finding a critique group can be hard, but when you find a good one, it can be worth its weight in gold. How do your critique groups work? Do you do in-person or online? What do you find helpful about them?