Last Saturday, seven mystery writers from my Capitol Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime met at Temple Coffee on S St. in downtown Sacramento to figure out the who, why, what, where and how of beginning a mystery writer critique group.
On that breezy spring morning with the daffodils bobbing, I felt ready for something new. Several among our group had been in critique groups in the past and for others, like me, this was a first. Over coffee and Chai tea we got to know each other a little better and talked about the upcoming Left Coast Crime conference this month, our books, published and yet to be, and the critique group.
We didn’t want it to be rigid and rule-bound or too unstructured. Commitment was important. We passed out critique group guidelines.
We gave ourselves several tasks to complete for our next meeting to help us learn more about what we wanted from the group. That prompted me to do some ruminating.
Why do I want to belong to a critique group?
- Writer friends. Until recently, I have worked in organizations as a writer/editor/communications person. My friends in that environment were wonderful people, but not aspiring fiction writers. Now, I’d like to enlarge my circle with friends who have my same interests. Being in a group that talks about writing for two or three hours at a stretch sounds like heaven to me.
- You Rock and You Suck. I need to connect with the real world in my writing and not only my internal world. One inner voice tells me I’m great and its evil twin tells me everyone is writing mystery novels and they are all more likely to get published than mine, and so on.
What my rational self knows is that neither of these voices speaks the truth. I write because I love it. Even rewriting and editing. I also want others to like what I write and that’s why I’m joining a critique group. Otherwise, it’s just me and my inner twins: You Rock and You Suck. I need a reality check.
I’d like to hear from those of you who have been in critique groups. What worked for you? What didn’t?
You definitely rock!
I agree completely! You rock! (And it’s good to know I’m not alone in the dueling voices category.) What works for me? I really like it when part of the structure of the critique group is for members to ask for the kind of feedback they want and need each time. Looking at my own work that way helps me to be clear about where I am in my own process. And it also honors that for everyone else. What doesn’t work for me is when I’m at a place in my writing where it’s hard for me to sort out which feedback to use and which to ignore. When I’m in that place, it’s better for me to let time and distance and my own editing/re-writing skills do the work. Love your blog — it always makes me think!
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Great suggestions!
I’ve been in a critique group for about a year and a half. Not everyone likes my writing, a lot do. I find both the negative and postitive feedback really helpful. What I love most, is just getting together with other who love writing!