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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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Online Critter Groups

First of all, I have to start out by saying that if you feel jealous of me and my crit situation after you read this, then you should. ;)  I met my other half and most amazing crit partner ever, Kristen, in February.  If you've ever seen us talk/tweet/blog each other, you would've thought that we had known each other since we were in diapers.

It actually seems this way to us as well. She can seriously finish my thoughts and sentences at times which has led us to try and figure out how our parents pulled a real, live Parent Trap stunt on us. We had to have been separated at birth. It's the only thing that makes sense. Sadly, she lives in NY and I in TX. Such a far, far distance apart.

When I say she's my other half what I mean is, on any given day, I talk to her more often than I do my husband. That's intense. We have something wonderfully unique. We don't just crit each other's stuff, but we talk each other off the edge of the cliff, think of other entrepreneurial types of things to do with our lives if we don't make it as writers (like sidewalk chalk artists and tight-rope walkers), work out plot problems, talk about the millions of book ideas that swirl in our brains, we trust one another, we are tough and harsh when we need to be, personal cheerleaders, and most importantly we are best friends.

I know our crittership is a rare thing and I feel so blessed to have her. More recently, her and I have joined two other writers, who have amazing stories and are a brilliant asset to the group. Now that I've gone on and on about how much I love my crit group, let me wash out most writer's issues with "problems" with crit groups. Obviously this is all based on finding the right group that you can trust and wear thick skin around.

  • Be honest and upfront - Tell what you are looking for in the group. If you know that you aren't thick skinned, then, well, maybe you don't belong in this business, but beyond that you're more looking for a personal cheerleader. That isn't what everyone is looking for. It would be a huge waste of time for me, personally, to be in a group where my critters didn't point out the minor and major issues my writing has. So make sure that you know what you are getting into and make sure everyone is on board and is wanting what you want.
  • Tell what your thoughts are as you're reading - Meaning, if you find something HI-larious, then say it. If something doesn't make sense or doesn't fit right, say it. But ALWAYS explain why something doesn't work.
  • Point out the plot issues - If something is not believable, then say it. If there are inconsistencies or things that just don't make any kind of sense to anyone other than the one who wrote it, say it. If you can't take this type of criticism, then how are you going to make it with an agent/editor/publisher's notes to change things?
  • Take some, leave some - If you don't take any of the critiques given, you are making a huge mistake and wasting valuable time of the people critting your stuff. If you are taking all of the critiques, you are most likely making a huge mistake. Everyone has different opinions on things and if you have 4 people looking at your ms, then obviously, there will be differing opinions. Take a look at the majority, leave the crits that don't settle well with you, and find a happy medium.
Do you guys have any other biggies when it comes to your crit groups? Anything that you find to be extremely valuable from your critters? Or is there anything that is extremely NOT helpful from crit partners you may have had in the past?  Tomorrow I'll talk about the membership with DFW Writer's Workshop. Happy Humpday.

6 brilliant remarks:

Jennifer Shirk said...

I love how my crit partners will be honest yet tactful and always explain their thoughts.
Once in an old old crit group, I had a comment that said, "If this was an actual book I would have slammed it up against the wall right here."
Not exactly helpful.
Needless to say, I got out of that crit group FAST and that "book" she didn't like finaled in a contest with that same exact scene and later got published.

Justine Dell said...

OMG, I feel the same way about my crit partner as you do yours! It's a wonderful, wonderful relationship! And now that I think about it, I do talk to her more than I talk to the hubs. Funny.

~JD

Jemi Fraser said...

I've been really lucky in the crit buddy department too. It's amazing how you can click with someone you've never met in real life!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Such great crit group advice! And how lucky you are to have found such a remarkable crit buddy in Kristen. You're both pretty amazing, so I can see how it would work for you both ;)

Kimberly Franklin said...

I am a believer in the Crit Groups. They save me all the time!

Jen said...

Okay, for all of you who have found these awesome crit partners, how did you find them?? I know SCBWI has something, but if I remember correctly, they only update the list twice a year. I need help NOW! LOL