Sunday, December 17, 2006

When Critique Groups Won't Work ...

Tess Gerritsen wrote a lovely post about the importance of critique groups, and the importance of finding a good one, if you want to improve.

I agree that, whatever you do, you must get your work out somewhere, and have it read. Somehow, a writer has to make that connection between what he writes and what a reader is reading.

I sat in on a critique group once, and I was vaguely irritated by the whole thing. First off, they brainstormed together, which is wonderful. I know a couple people offered to help me brainstorm, lately, and I'm so stuck that I'm very tempted. (This is two projects ahead, btw. This is why I think a few projects in advance, so getting stuck doesn't mean I have to stop writing!)

I don't object to brainstorming together, and I don't object to exchanging ideas. Lord knows, two heads are better than one. Me? I'm suspect of any idea someone else can come up with. Isn't that silly? It's just that, I think that if someone else came up with it, then it's not original enough. That it's not 'me' enough.

That doesn't stop me from coming up with cliche ideas, I'm sure! It just lets me write under the illusion that it's original. If others helped me, I'm sure that they would come up with better ideas.

I don't write for myself. I write to be read. I make music to connect with an audience, and I write books to connect with my readers. I have no idea why I blog, LOL.

Anyway, my problem, is that I'm a people-pleaser. I got reader mail a few months ago, and I ended up writing a whole story based on a small comment she'd made. Not that she'd know it, but I wrote that story to please her. That's just the way I am.

That's why I could never do critique groups. I would try to please every member, and I would chase after their praise like a puppy running after a bone. Pleasing the critique group members would start to take precedence in my mind, and they would become the readers I envision when I sit down to write. (And for someone who doesn't normally think of their readers, this would be a huge check in the Pro column!)

What makes me such a hypocrite is that I've discovered that I love critiquing other people's writing. But it's good that I don't, because I would end up caring more about other people's work, than my own. I'd work harder for them, than I would myself. I just would.

But critique groups can be awesome! What do you guys think? I was thinking, critique groups are probably vital if:

  • The writer is not getting published, even in the small leagues.
  • The writer knows he/she needs to improve, but doesn't know where.
  • The writer wants company.
  • The writer needs that commitment to help motivate themselves.
  • The writer wants to hear how his work sounds from the readers' perspective.

...what else? How do you feel about it?

I have a pacing group that I would swear by. I love them. We just post to each other, every day, how many words we've written. The rule is that we write 100 a day. That's not a whole lot, but every one of us has taken our productivity to amazing levels. I love them to death; they're amazing.

But the critiquing? In the end, it's got to be me and my butt and my chair and my fingers.

4 bonus scribbles:

Bernita 12/17/2006 01:46:00 PM  

Leary of them, because the right fit is hard to find.

StarvingWriteNow 12/17/2006 02:41:00 PM  

How did you find a pacing group? This sounds like an idea to keep me on track!

spyscribbler 12/17/2006 11:54:00 PM  

Well, first I found one online, but that one fizzled. Then I joined another, and that one fizzled. Then another ...

Finally, this one stuck. 100 words, 5 days a week, is easy enough to do in ten minutes if it's a busy day, but it often inspires me to go much longer.

It's easy to start a pacing group. Just set up a yahoo group, and then advertise on the lists you belong to. You only need two or three members to make it work!

In fact, it's better if it's small, then you can keep track of each other and make sure everyone's writing! When we started, we set a limit at five members. I can see if they'll take one more, though! It'd be great to have another friend there!

Edie 12/17/2006 11:59:00 PM  

I belong to a critique group, and I love the group. They find errors I missed, and let me know if they think something isn't working--and why. I don't take all their suggestions and vice-versa. If it doesn't feel right to me, I don't do it.

I've been in a couple brainstorming sessions with local writers, and if it doesn't work for me, I told them. But I know someone who took everyone's suggestions. When she said, "I didn't know I was writing a romantic suspence," it didn't sound promising to me. Sure enough, she never finished the book. That's because it wasn't HER book.