Hello, my name is Folio, and I’m a two crit litwit. A litwrit? A critwrit? Okay, a nitwit! Ahem.
Let’s try that again.
Hello, my name is Folio, and I belong to two critique groups. I love them both. Benefit from both. Why two? Because they're different. Yet some writers wonder whether they should even belong to one, let alone two.
I credit my friends in my first group (Uff Da!), with pushing me up the mountain. Or perhaps we linked hands and climbed the Fourteener together. We met at a class on How to Get Published, so we were all ambitious and at somewhat similar levels of experience. This proved invaluable. While there’s certainly an appeal to joining a group with members that have far more experience, consider whether that makes the slope a bit slippery. You might be an amazing talent, but if you’re trudging up the hill and don’t even know what to carry in your backpack, have to be guided every step of the way, it could be frustrating for everyone. Some groups I’m aware of require an “audition” before an invitation to join for exactly this reason.
Uff Da Cum Laude meets monthly, exchanges pages at one meeting and critiques them at the next. We’re friends, supporters, and cheerleaders. We love good stories. We’ve been through the battles of trying to get published and some of us have. Once, disaster visited. A man I’ll call Big Bad John asked if he could join our group. What an arrogant, unhappy person. He was loud, uber ambitious, and voiced the opinion that kindness had no place in critique. He preferred the slash and burn method. Didn’t care if there was blood on the trees.
After that first meeting our “old” members privately critiqued him as a potential member, and we disinvited him. Because of John we closed our group. That one encounter taught us how important it is to learn if you’re a fit for your critique group, and vice versa. I want critique and I’m pretty tough and resilient, but who needs deforestation? Not me. John apparently thought he did. I hope he found a group that shared his goals and preferences.
Enter my second group, the Sisters of the Quill. Oh sisters, was I ever flattered to be approached at a writer’s conference by an incredibly gracious author, Storm Petrel. She introduced herself, noted that we were from the same small town (displayed on our nametags). She belonged to a critique group with only a few members. Would I like to join them, try a meeting or two? Would I!?
That was many years ago and these days we meet weekly to work and critique. And to enjoy our friendship! Camaraderie is good in this solitary profession of ours. We have one long-distance member, and several years ago we began reporting our progress on a regular basis, sometimes daily, via email. We’ve found that one sister’s success can be celebrated, shared by all, as can coping with angst. Then every once in a while we meet for an all day or multi-day retreat. Talk about fun! We brainstorm and work hard, pound out plot points and eat wonderful food.
As you might gather, we’re supportive but at the same time aggressive, about getting published, that is! “What iffing” is sought out and appreciated. If something doesn’t work we say so, then it’s up to the sister to decide if she agrees. Or not. During this journey we've truly become sisters, in every best sense of the word. Such a treasure.
I know a few writers who think their voice will be massaged to a homogenized mush if they run their words through critique. I think it could happen. So remember that every comment should be filtered by you. After all, how many times have you started reading a bestseller and found it wasn't worth turning the pages? Opinions really do vary. So remember to be open, to really LISTEN to the comments about your work, and THEN decide whether to edit. At the same time, if you're not interested in changing and learning, and argue about every suggested improvement, then why bother with critique?
I hope you’re as blessed as I am with your friends in critique. In both of my groups what started as nervous meetings of strangers flourished, grew tall and strong, and now reach steadfastly for the quill or pen or keyboard.
Uff Da! SOTQ!