Monday, April 6, 2009

Blog Chain: Critter-pated

Literary Mary (sorry, couldn't help it) asked us about our critique partners. Sandra posted before me.


Are you in a critique group?
Critique group? What's a critique group?

Not so long ago, I had no idea what a critique group did.

Ha! How quickly I learned that serious writers should never go without being part of a critique group or, at the very least, have a couple of really good critique partners.
Upon learning this, I acquired a few trusted critters and haven't looked back.

At what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?

Call it insecurity, but . . .

. . . I'd cringe with embarrassment, crawl under the table and light a fire with the heat in my flushed face if anyone ever saw the first-round, rough drafts of my novels.

I realize that if critters see your work early enough in the game, they can catch things that an author can easily overlook. Fixing problems with pacing, characterization, etc. is much easier when you haven't spent a lot of time perfecting scenes that just aren't working.

But it's my nature to do things the hard way. :-)

How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?

In giving critiques, I prefer to take the whole project so I can evaluate it as a whole. I find it difficult to crit just a couple of chapters at a time because offer advice without knowing the direction of a story could be more of a detriment than a help.

And it's advice on the big aspect, more than anything, that I look for when critters are looking at my work.

The more in-depth and honest a critique is . . .the better.

In the past, I've told my critters to be brutal, be honest, tell me the story sucks if you don't like it. I don't want to waste my time on a dog (unless, of course, it's furry and will beg for my taco).

Writing for a newspaper has helped me develop an incredibly thick skin. (Just like sitting at a desk has helped me develop a thick waist. Or maybe that was the taco I wouldn't share with the dog.) I can take the feedback.

Do all members in you group write the same genre?
Nope. Genre shouldn't matter. Good writing is good writing. Bad writing is bad writing.

If one of my fantasy-writing crit partners can hold my women's-fiction-loving attention span, then that's a huge nod toward his/her talent. And on the flip side of that coin, if my fantasy-loving crit partner cries reading chapter 8 of my novel . . .well, Yay!

My biggest issue with critique groups, however, is knowing which advice to take and which advice to leave. Last year, literary agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a great blog post about too many cooks in the kitchen when working with critique groups. She offered some really good advice I thought I'd pass on just in case you didn't catch it.

Now, mosey on over to Christine's blog and see what she has to say about her critters.

(Why does the word "critters" remind me of that Star Trek episode with Tribbles?)


Anonymous said...

Great post. You know what, I didn't know about crit groups at first either.

OH boy. I wish I had known about them earlier.

They are such a blessing! Yea, even when they shred my writing...they are a blessing.

I've grown so much as a writer through my crit groups, i can't even describe it. :-)

Great post, today!

celticqueen said...

Thick skin is definitely necessary if you want to be a writer :) I am mortified at the amount of people (friends and family) I proudly sent my first book to - after going through it maybe once or twice myself. I shudder when I think of that version. I do like to send a couple pages if I'm in brainstorm mode to a few trusted critters, but yeah, I try to polish as much as possible otherwise :)

Sandra said...

I have to admit that one of the drawbacks of OWW is the inability to crit an entire novel at once. Even if you find crit partners who will follow you for an entire novel, it often takes months to post all of the chapters. Although you could always swap novels through e-mail, you don't earn OWW credit for that. If I had time to do Critters, I'd try that.

Rosslyn said...

Thanks for the link to Rachelle's article! That was posted before I had even heard of her,and months before I signed on with her, so I had missed that one.

Here's the funny thing: I've belonged to two successful crit groups in which we all do some line editing, contrary to Rachelle's advice about "no line edits for the first draft." We *also* do big picture feedback, but my partners and I have always appreciated the line edit suggestions. We don't always implement all of them, but we like getting them. Personally, I find proofreading to be a major pain, so if my crit partner catches a double period, I am SO grateful.

I would qualify that by saying that crit partners have to be capable enough to do good line edits, which is pretty rare. The writer also has to be secure enough in her own voice to know which line edits are acceptable to her voice, and which aren't.

Anonymous said...

Great post Kat; I love your tribbles reference at the end...cracked me up ( I know, I know - I just exposed my total geek nature didn't I ;) )

Crimogenic said...

I'm in a critique group and I can definitely tell that their feedback has helped me improve my craft.

gzusfreek said...

Great thoughts, Kat!
I've grown so much in my crit groups!
Love this post!

Annie Louden said...

Great post, Kat! I also prefer it if I can read a project as a whole, or have someone read my project in its entirety.

ElanaJ said...

Excellent blog post, Kat. I liked the link to Rachelle's blog too. And you're so right about so many things. Being in a crit group, how to grow thick skin, all of it. Great job!

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Yes, the thick skin is so necessary! It is never easy to receive a harsh crit, but in the end they only make your writing better!

Carolyn Kaufman said...

I believe first drafts are for the embarrassing crap you don't ever, ever want anyone else to see. Because from that sometimes comes the shiniest gems...