18 Sep
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Critique Group Etiquette

et_2_sqLast week we discussed why you don’t want me to read your entire manuscript until we get to know each other as trusted critique partners. Today’s post will address the more evil and wicked step-sister of last week’s topic which, to put it bluntly, is the act of cheating the submission process. So how do the two differ?

I truly believe the desire to have your newly completed draft read comes from a place of hope and honesty.  Gosh darn it – it’s just so exciting to have actually written an ENTIRE BOOK! I totally get it, and I think when introduced to the structure and process of a critique group, many new writers have an “aha” moment and quickly settle into the work and dedication it takes to revise their manuscript. Then, there are other members (mostly new, but sometimes veterans…) that knowingly look for loopholes in the group’s guidelines and/or find creative ways to get more time than they’re allotted… Read more >>

Four Valid Reasons You Don’t Need a Critique Group (and why they just might be the reasons you do)

lucky_13The SCBWI MD/DE/WV Lucky 13: Make 2013 Your Year Conference is less than 2 weeks away and you can still resister through tomorrow Friday, September 13! I’ll be there talking about the roles critique groups play in “luck”. Looking forward to meeting all of you and getting you started on finding a critique group. Today’s post is a “bonus” post that appeared earlier this week on the region website As the Eraser Burns. And now, without further ado.. Read more >>

Why you don’t want me to read your full manuscript…

readmystuffOver time I’ve become the Dear Abby of critique groups for those who know and loathe – uh – love me… I’m actually fine with that role and, as a matter of fact, I quite like it. Offering possible solutions to critique group dilemmas are one of my favorite things to do. Those who come seeking advice show the dedication needed for success and longevity of their critique group (which is always an awesome thing!). Recently I’ve heard from several (no joke!) critique groups members from various states who seem to be running into the same dilemma. What is this dilemma of epidemic proportions you ask? Read more >>

4 Sep

When writing is like swimming

swimDiana Nyad’s response to Robin Roberts on GMA when asked how she pushes through the tough moments:

“You know, I decided this year to use a mantra. And I think a lot of people can relate to this in their own lives. Whatever their pushing through.

Don’t need to tell you about survival and pushing through the tough moments. And the phrase I decided to use was, find a way. If something is important to you, and it looks impossible and you’re up against it, just step back for a minute and say, really?

Do I have the resolve to think of every Nth degree to get through this? And most times we do. People give up too quickly.” Read more >>

Tough love

mae“If you can’t say something nice come sit next to me.”
Mae West

I’ll be the first to admit, that I’m a tough critic.  I’ve been known to make grown men cry – not one of my proudest moments – but one I refuse to apologize for.  Why?  Because I was delivering open and honest feedback in the most constructive way I possibly could in an attempt to help a writer improve their craft.

Getting feedback on your work can be tough. Your MS is your baby, you’ve cared and nurtured it and loved it even at its ugliest stages, but most writers go into a critique expecting to do a bit of flinching from the feedback we receive. What I don’t think many writers expect is how intimidating giving feedback can be and as a result many struggle far more with doling out bad news than they do receiving it.  There’s fear of hurting feelings of those you’ve built friendships with and yes, to a certain extent, a fear of retaliation.  So how do you get over that fear and learn to give the open and honest feedback a writer needs to improve their writing and craft an MS worthy of a nod from an agent?  This blogger has some suggestions: Read more >>

Critiquing critique groups

quiltingbeeGood critique groups can be incredibly helpful in getting your MS in tip-top shape, they can also be a complete waste of time. Yeah – I just said that. While there are many different types of formats a critique group may follow, at the end of the day the purpose of any critique group is the same: To make us all better writers and to polish our current MS so it’s ready for the critical eyes of prospective agents.

That begs the question, how can we tell the difference between a helpful critique group and one that’s more akin to a quilting bee? Read more >>

1,2,3 – Commence Corralling!

bikecopIn our quest to corral kittens we have now accomplished the following:

So we’re done right? All we need to do is set our meeting date and we’re off, right? Well, yes and no.  The easy part is done, now it’s time to learn to maintain order… Read more >>

Where the Writer’s Hang…

coffeegirl_finIn my on-going mini series on setting up a critique group, we are down to #3 – Finding Writers.  It seems like just about everybody is writing a book these days (and it seems most of them are writing about vampires living in a dystopic world run by zombies – oh come on – you know you have a partial stashed in a drawer…) so it would seem an easy thing to find writers for your new critique group right?  Wrong!  It never ceases to amaze me that when I mention to one of the aforementioned writers that I have a critique group they immediately tell me about how time consuming their driveway rock painting project is or, while apologize for seeming arrogant, their book is so amazing they simply cannot share it with a group for fear it will be stolen and sold immediately in a publisher’s bidding war.  /sigh Read more >>

Playing Nice in the Sandbox

POLICYLast week I talked about various locations critique groups can be held.  You all ran right out and found a place right?  Of course you did!….  So, now we’re on to the second topic from Corralling Kittens: Format & Guidelines.There are as many types of critique groups as there are, well, critique groups!  Genre specific, mixed genre, fiction, non-fiction, short stories, long format…  you get the point.  You need to decide up front what type of group you would enjoy running and share this with your perceptive members.  Be specific about what the group will and will not critique.

In addition to knowing what genre your group will be, you’ll need to state up front what the Guidelines are.  Yes, yes, I know – we’re all unique artistic snowflakes and “rules” make a tiny part of us die inside – but they are necessary.  Guidelines allow all members to know up front what their commitment will be and what is expected of them.  It also ensures everyone plays nice in the sandbox together!  So what kind of guidelines do you need to have?  Anything to make your group run smoothly and stay on track.  Here’s a few to get you started: Read more >>

Oh the Places You Will Go…

Last week I talked about starting a critique group and the items you’ll need to have in place before beginning, the first being, well, place! (see what I did there?) place2  I know, a lot of you reading this are saying, “But wait – what about writers?  Don’t we need writers?  Yes, but we will get to that in another post…

I put place on the first on the list because it will be the single most important factor in your membership. If an invited writer can’t physically make it to the meeting locale, the genre, meeting times and so on become a moot point.  The good news is meetings can be held just about anywhere, so finding one isn’t that difficult but you need to keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of various locales.  Let’s take a look at locations critique groups can be held and their advantages and disadvantages: