Tuesday, December 27

A critter crisis...

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Ok, well, it's not that bad. I'm pretty decent at self-editing and only getting better workshop by workshop. But we all hit that point where our manuscripts need fresh sets of eyes and minds.

A critique group is a great thing. It’s a fantastic way to get outside eyes on your manuscript and help you polish your work. You can find areas of weakness and mistakes you might not have seen on your own. You learn how to better critique others’ work. You have a ready-made support group to identify with the trials you go through as a writer.

Despite the benefits, I’ve decided to opt out. If I’d found a good for me group, I might feel different. I’ve tried several, giving each plenty of time and taking my feedback with a grain of salt. Still I choose to opt out. I didn’t get bad feedback (mostly—someone did tell me not to use fragments in dialogue and another said no contractions in writing ever). No one offended me. The fact is when I submitted, I received a virtually clean copy back. I got a few suggestions, some of it positive feedback. While that’s great for my ego, it does nothing to polish my writing.

I ran into two basic problems. First, I was at a different writing level than most members. Second, the other writers didn’t write or read my genre. So what now? The image of the solitary writer makes me laugh. IMHO, it takes a village to produce a great book.

I tried out Writer’s Digest Community, but ran into problematic feedback from writers outside of the romance genre. Plus not enough writers use the site so the crits are few. I registered for Critique Circle but haven’t used it yet. Anyone tried it? If so, how was it? Pros? Cons? I dabbled with Book Country, but I have to admit it made me nervous. You don’t have to be a registered user to view large portions of an author’s posted work. Would a publisher have a problem with so much of your unedited manuscript openly displayed to the public? And if you had some pretty original concepts, aren’t you then wide-open to giving them to other writers?

I have a few beta readers who aren’t writers but read romance, and aren't afraid to tell me when something's jacked up. For my first manuscript, I had one fantastic critter, Sondrae Bennett, who was amazing at helping me shape up my writing skills. If I had two or three critters as skilled, I’d be set.

Where have you found your outside eyes? Tried any critique sites? Have a critique group story, good, bad or ugly? How do you feel about publishers building their own critique sites, like Book Country? Who else is game to try it out?


  1. Back in '09 when I had a short story blog going, I got some decent feedback from the writers and semi-writers who read the stories on a regular basis.

    As for the novel length stuff, I have a regular reader/friend who is a former journalist, and she was gracious enough not only to read my manuscript multiple times and offer very solid advice but allowed me to pick her brain on certain topics while I was writing it.

  2. Clarissa Draper has a critique partner match up on her site - maybe you'll find someone there?
    I was lucky - I put out a call for help on my blog, got a dozen offers, and found three amazing critique partners that way.

  3. @G: Readers do help quite a bit, especially with sagging plot, characterization, and plot holes or conflicts. That 'picking the brain' thing is highly valuable, too. Not many people I know are patient enough to bounce ideas back and forth and talk about characters as if they're alive (lol, they are to me sometimes).

    @Alex: I forgot about her partner match up. I'll have to give it a try. I do have a big month-long EditPalooza at Savvy Authors that I'm excited about. They match us with five or so people in the same genre and then the group is mentored by an experienced editor.

  4. Grrr, don't you hate when you post on your blog, and then notice a grammar error?

  5. Hi Angela, I have found that critiquing a chapter at a time does not work for me. I think because when I read a book, I don't stop at each chapter, I want to get to the story. I'd rather have the entire manuscript.
    As for critique groups, I was in one at one time, and enjoyed the give and take, but then there were those chapters that read as though the author had just typed it out and hadn't even proof read the stuff. That's when I stopped.

  6. @Gerri Oh, wow, I'm the same way! I prefer all of it because I read through first as a beta reader. I want to see the character and narrative arcs. Can't get that in a single chapter, only the micro-view.

    I got some of the poorly written (and I'm being nice here) stuff, too. Writing level is important when finding crit partners. You want someone at least at your level. Not trying to say I'm brilliant, and I do overlook grammar often if the content is good. Grammar's easier to fix.

    Sometimes I think finding a crit partner match made in heaven is like trying to find a husband ;)

  7. I have a one-on-one crit partner and am part of the FTHRW crit loop. Both are invaluable. The more eyes critiquing a chapter, the more proofing for grammar goofs, suggestions for alternative wording, helpful hints for settings, etc.

  8. @Ana I agree! What one person doesn't catch, another might.

    I'm in the FTHRW loop, too, but I can't stand using Yahoo for critiques. It drives me insane so I haven't joined in yet. As I mentioned above, I like to get bigger pieces of the ms, but I'm at that point where I need new eyes. I may have to quit being such a wuss and teach myself to use something I find not-so-user-friendly ;) That is, after all, why I initially joined FTHRW.

    BTW, welcome to my blog and thank you for sharing your experience!

  9. Yes, Angela, I think finding a crit partner is just as hard as finding a husband.

  10. Hi Angela,
    Thanks for the interesting post about critiquing.
    The critique group I belong to has been very helpful. I've learned not only from getting my stories critiqued, but also by listening to the work of others and listening to other critiques.

    Donna V.

  11. @Gerri LOL!

    @Irishoma That's a great point, and it was one of the best parts of being a part of the crit groups I was in. Meeting in person helped me considerably also because there was a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other that probably wouldn't have occurred via email.


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