It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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I’m reminding myself the “IWSG Day Question” is optional. This week I wanted to write about something which has been on my mind lately re my writing. And that is, the transformational power of a good critique group.

It was writer John_Yeoman who said, ‘There are no great writers, only great editors.’ Everyone writes a rough first draft. Our work has to be edited until we’re blind. And then we need a second pair of eyes to look at it, and to look at other people’s stories as well, to refresh the mental palate. I remember when I first joined kiwiwrite4kidz, in 2004. One of the organisers and authors, Maria Gill, said, the best advice she could give me was that I should join a critique group.

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I ran scared from that advice, in truth, for years. I had been tinkering on children’s stories in my spare time. I’d been quietly attending workshops and conferences, stalking the literary scene. I preferred being on the outside looking in. An introvert and a loner, I also didn’t feel ready to share my work. I was scared it wasn’t good enough.

Who was I to say I was a writer, and could bump shoulders with other literati?

It was an intimidating process, at first. It took me a long time to get past the initial stage of paralysis. Years later, I tried an in-person critique group. I was so awkward and self conscious and uncomfortable in those social situations, that I felt it simply wasn’t for me.

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I started the online group ‘Writing for Children’ in 2014, on the awesome Kristen Lamb’s Wanatribe site. I met other writers there, and quite naturally, I began swapping chapters with one of the writers, the wonderful Maria Cisneros-Toth, for critique. It was the first time I had shown the upper middle grade story I’d been working on, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, to anyone.

It was my first real experience of a ‘critique group’ situation, where you’re submitting your chapters each week and getting feedback to work on, and simultaneously reading another person’s chapters and giving feedback on them. It revolutionised my work.

My book began its transformational journey from seed to plant.

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After that, I joined the group, The Magnificent Five, and The Creative Collective, and last year formed another ‘group of two,’ The Two Amigos.

Through that time, I finished and published the Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and edited and published the second volume, The Sasori Empire.

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This year, I’m working on my third book, The Last Tree, with a group I call ‘The Gang of Four,’ (because I like the band!). Four is an effective working number to my mind, because you get a broad range of feedback and yet, there’s still a manageable work load. With two kids still at home, I have to be careful how I manage my time.

It does take energy and commitment, yet it’s worth every minute because critique stimulates and prospers the work and the authors. You get instant insight as to whether an idea has worked, whether your story is making sense and where more or less is needed.

Critique groups provide a fertile laboratory for testing our creativity.

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Sometimes you’re too close to the story to recognize the issues for yourself. One of the things that never fails to amaze me, is that I can see clearly the things which need changing in someone else’s work far more easily than I can in my own. Why is that?

I don’t know.

This give-and-take process of feedback creates a positive force that generates evolution in the work.

We may not love our stories when we first write them, but it’s how we feel about them at the end that counts. And a good critique circle can facilitate great work.

What about you? Have you found yourself a writing critique group, yet?

The Two Amigos

 

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” ~ Stephen King

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Comments
  1. Olga Godim says:

    I don’t have a critique group. I wish I had. My experience with peer critique is ambiguous. When I first started writing, I joined a local critique group, and it helped a lot. Everyone in the group was on the same level and wrote in the same genre. Then, I started learning and improving, got publications, and the other group members stayed the same. The group stopped being useful, so I left it. After that, I tried occasionally some mutual, reciprocal critique with the other writers, but I found it a mixed blessing. Sometimes helpful, but mostly not.
    For a group to be useful, it has to consist of members writing in the same or similar genres, and on the same or close level of quality. It’s not as easy to find as one might think. You’re lucky you found your group. Or rather, founded your group – which is the way to go, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Absolutely. I think for the group to be useful you have to write for the same genre, reading level and be at a somewhat similar stage in careers. But, having said that, I was very lucky when I started out with online critique as well, because I was hopelessly inept! Lucky for me, I had some sympathetic writing partners. Boy, they taught me a lot, esp. Maria!
      I’m sorry your experiences were less than great, Olga.
      They might not be for all people.
      I have one friend, an author and illustrator, who belongs to six critique groups! Imagine that. I prefer one solid unit, and it works for me. 🙂

      Like

  2. emaginette says:

    Getting feedback is the only way to go. Improvements galore when I shared my work. And no regrets. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Ah, so you’ve tried a critique group, Anna? Yes. It’s great isn’t it.

      After doing a “Writing for Children” course in 2005, the next year, I took the subsequent course, on “Critique.” I think it’s an essential skill to cultivate, and critiquing other people’s prose helps hone the same skills for looking at your own.

      I’m just about to work on the Gang of Four critiques now, and I look forward to doing it.

      However, I still get nerve-wracked every time I wait on their critiques. It’s just part of that vulnerable process that goes along with sharing your stories. You learn to live with that, for the wonder of having three other sets of eyes editing it, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have a writing critique group, but it sounds like a great way to connect with fellow writers and hone your craft.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Finally joining these critique groups must have been quite the revelation, Yvette. Hurrah for the internet when it comes to that, since I’m always on the move and don’t live anywhere to join in person, which I would have loved to do.

    I don’t have a critique group, but just this weekend I’m starting to exchange chapters with another memoir writer. Unfortunately, I should have started this process much sooner, as I’m beginning the third draft of my book, and some insights before that would have helped. But, better late than never!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Yes, thank goodness for the internet! It’s perfect for a traveller like you.

      Good on you, Liesbet for starting the process of critique. Even though you are on the third draft, it’s still going to be invaluable. That’s how I started, one-on-one with another writer. I think I learned more through those three years with Maria as my writing partner than at any other time! It’s a nice way to ease into trying critique groups, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Feedback is the best way to go. There’s always something that sneaks into the story or writing that shouldn’t be there 😉

    Ronel visiting on Insecure Writer’s Support Group day: Autumn Decisions

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was afraid of the CP process as well at first, and rightly so, I think, because you never know what you’re going to get back, and if that other person is going through something that makes their critique of your work harsher than it should be, or if perhaps they don’t share your politics, and so that makes them critique you harder than they would someone else. I’ve also had great critique partners, and I realize now that you have to do some trialing to find the ones that stick. And even when circumstances make a CP critique me harshly, there is still something to be gained from reading what they wrote about my work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Critique is more often than not useful. However, as you say, yes, you have to find the partners who are the right fit for you. And, you know when you find them, too. I was in a group once which just didn’t feel right. I struggled and struggled, and when I did finally pick up the courage and left the group, I was immediately relieved. That’s usually a pretty good sign that the group was not for you!

      Like

  7. You are a great painting artist too. Thank you for showing this art. I love it so much. Have a good weekend, you are really a strong woman. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

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