My reading list grows exponentially. Everytime I read a book, it'll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It's like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.
-A.J. Jacobs

Thursday, July 15, 2010

DFW Writer's Workshop

So, I've been on a crit kick this week. Heehee. That sounds funny. I went all soft yesterday talking about my awesome crit partner Kristen (who by the way is going Critler on me to get my book done).

Today I want to talk about the awesomeness that is critique groups that meet in person. Weird, huh? More like completely terrifying. Honestly, I didn't really get the whole point of Workshop at first. I was thinking, you could get the same thing accomplished with your online critters as you would in person, so these people must just need to interact with other real, live, humans in person.I reasoned with that. It makes sense.

But, oh no. That is not what it is. There of course are positives and negatives to every side of anything you do. And there are a few negatives to the Workshop, however, I truly believe that the positives outweigh the negatives by a million degrees. And even though at times I look at Workshop as an AA meeting for writers, hey let's face it, we need that, it is so much more.

Basically here's a run-down of how it works:
There's a meeting with the whole group sharing news, highs/lows of the week, introducing new members, and any announcements.

If you've signed up to read, then you are assigned to a group/room/moderator and told what order you'll be reading.

Quick break.

Readings begin. Last week I was the first to read which was seriously terrifying. I can't explain to you what comes over me when I read my stuff out loud. I get all weird and my voice tenses up, and my heart practically pounds out of my chest. No, seriously. I can hear my voice shaking when I read and I always read WAY too fast.

You may be asking right now, why in the world would you put yourself through that terrible torture. Here's why:
After reading, you give up the stage (not literally) and hand it over to the critiquers. People can crit for up to five minutes, and have seconds if there is time left over. The crits can sting and feel brutal sometimes, but they are always beyond helpful. And the crazy thing is that I can read a chapter a bajillion times out loud in the privacy of my own home and think I'm freaking brilliant, and then read it out loud to the group of critiquers and realize as I'm reading it, "Oh my God. This is horrible." And already know what they're going to say is wrong with it before they even open their mouths.

It's CRAZY. But ridiculously helpful. And in my opinion, a writer shouldn't do it all by themselves. They should rely on critique partners to help them out. We are too close to our own stories to have good judgement on what really matters. And yes, even though it does take longer to finish a ms while being in crit groups, I can guarantee you, that my ms is going to be much more polished and ready for an agent than if I had done it all on my own.

Plus, going to a Workshop where you can meet other writers in real life is pretty awesome in and of itself. I'm really lucky to have amazing people that attend Workshop with me to learn from. Some agented, some published, but all writers wanting to grow and become better at what they do. Not that I'm name dropping or anything, but you may have heard of Jamie Harrington, Jenny Martin, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Candace Havens, and A. Lee Martinez. All fellow Workshop attendees. And of course there are many, many more fab writers there as well... :)

If you live in the DFW area, you should check out Workshop. It is worth it. Not to mention the amazing conference they offer as well. So, do any of you guys have a Workshop type deal that meets in your area? Are you a member? Tell me about your meeting in real life with crit partners!

4 brilliant remarks:

MBW aka Olleymae said...

I love that cartoon--so true.
Critique group is always brutal and rewarding. I'm so jealous that you're surrounded by amazing writers like that, but I'm also so grateful for my crit buddies up here in KS. :)

~Jamie said...

I can't tell you how freakin' much I LOVE workshop. I seriously don't know what I would do without it!

It's not just the crits... it's the FRIENDS--real friends that understand I'm a crazy writer type, ya know?

jmartinlibrary said...

Me too, girl! I LURRRVE DFWWW. It's my saving grace!

And I sooo got a euphoric head rush from seeing my name dropped alongside those guys.

Wow. I'm a cool kid? Who knew? First time ever!!!!

Steven Till said...

I definitely feel that's the biggest benefit from in-person critique groups. You get a chance to read in front of others, which let's face it you'll have to do when you are promoting your book at some point.

It's my biggest fear as well. I haven't read in front of a group in about 8 years, since I was in Creative Writing in college. I remember my voice tensing up back then, and to me it felt like it was noticeable, but maybe it wasn't. Sometimes the way we hear ourselves is completely different from the way others hear us.

Pacing was always hard for me when reading out loud. You just want to get it over with as fast as possible and rush through it. I need to get back in the habit of reading in front of others for sure.

The online critique group I submit my stuff to is Critique Circle. I have to say you usually get some quality critiques on there. Positives and negatives that have helped me in editing stories in the past. I was actually surprised at the quality of the critiques and suggestions.

Do you use a particular online critique group?