The Writers Forum meeting last Saturday, September 10, was all about Critique Groups. Board Members Sharon Owen, Ellen Jellison, Laura Hernandez, and Vickie Linnet spoke to the gathering of thirty-three WF members about what they have learned about what makes critique groups work. WF President Laura Hernandez wrote a summary of their presentation for us.
You can form a group all by yourself or you can infiltrate an existing one with a few important things to remember. That’s what my very own group was trying to tell you Saturday for our September General Meeting.
Getting your priorities out in the open is the best place to start. Are you working toward fiction and publication? You don’t have to be but everyone in your group should know if you are and you’d be better served being with people who are. Figure out what genre you are writing in and get in a group that knows a little bit about that genre. Your pleasure reading should be in that genre often enough so you know what you’re talking about.
Find/start a group that matches your writing skills. If you have never taken a writing class, start! There are many online such as Gotham Writers and UCLA Writers Extension that I have taken and recommend. Your group shouldn’t be burdened by obvious weakness in your sentence structure, punctuation/grammar, paragraph construction, point of view, tense, and tone because you can’t figure it out.
Form groups and use SKYPE or GO TO MEETINGS online. Decide how many pages to submit each time and when, and stick to it.
Your group should be looking for character development, story telling, plot pitfalls, consistency, drama and tension craft. And that’s what you are looking for in their stories. Look for books that you can keep to refer to these writing essentials.
If you meet in cafés, bring your wallet. If you meet at someone’s home, bring cookies sometimes. If you are meeting online, remember to meet the deadlines even though a pile of papers isn’t staring you in the face on the table. And remember that your facial expressions and voice which usually help mitigate a criticism aren’t there online so read it to yourself and picture how this would read to you before you hit SEND. There are some online groups included in this newsletter for you to try. I haven’t tried them all except for Inked Voices, so don’t come cryin’ to me if you don’t like them. Experiment! You aren’t dating these people, just writing with them!
Each criticism should have a complement, too. And you, over there, quit defending that point that isn’t working in your story! Your group wants your story to work and is helping you get there! Your group can be the biggest force in getting your writing where you want it to go! So get going!
Here are links to the groups Laura mentioned.
If you would be interested in finding a local critique group to join, or even would like to start a local critique group, please feel free to use the WF Critique Group page to find others. Remember, we do not match people with groups. You need to reach out and contact them. Post your writing genre and goals, and contact those who might be a good match for you.