Necessary Critique Groups

Hi All:

Contrary to common belief, writers do not work entirely alone — not if they want to get anywhere. Even the most successful have their critiquers, from whom they can expect sage advice. New writers need them even more, and for most the on-line group is the nearest option.

Donna McDine and I discussed some thoughts raised by Mayra Calvani’s current promotion with the online review moderators’ interviews. We thought some of you might have more to contribute to a discussion on critique groups.

Having some experience with on-line critique sites, as well as publishers and fiction reviews, we thought developing writers could use a bit of guidance as they work towards seeking out agents and publishers. (Donna’s thoughts came from the interview Mayra did with me at —
http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/05/25/104108.php )

The nitty gritty is that new authors are between a rock and the hard place (to use up my week’s quota of cliches). How does a writer know their work is ready to send out for publication? Having seen as many poorly written self-published books in my Muse Book Reviews stints as I care to – I’d suggest someone needs to rescue these authors from their mistakes.

The problem is, as the moderator of one of my online crit groups likes to point out – new writers all suffer from hurry disease. They almost always start looking for publication before they’ve mastered the elements of the craft. (Hey, I did it myself.) They don’t realize that the finer points make all the difference between a sale-worthy book and a disaster.

We all know how many queries agents turn down – almost 100% – and having the confidence to believe yours won’t be one of them is a prime requirement on the way to becoming a published author. But what if most of the ‘we regrets’ they send out are justified? Whose advice does the new writer seek to know if the rejection reflected no more than current ‘needs’, or indicated the manuscript itself was unacceptable? The new author needs a backup plan and self publishing should be the last, not the first option. The real plan should be joining a solid critique group whose suggestions can point the eventual rewrite to a discerning small publisher.

Now, kind and gentle groups that encourage the starting writer are invaluable – but an author needs to get into no-man’s land with some tougher critters before hitting the publishing stakes. What levels of advice, criticism, and help are out there? What levels does the new writer need to experience? Are there groups that provide steps to these levels? Anybody have suggestions?

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2 Responses to “Necessary Critique Groups”

  1. Donn McDine Says:

    My experience with critique groups has been positive for the most part except for one. I’m currently involved in two and bowed out of a third one. While the group as individuals was good, two main problems bothered me: too much socializing going on (now I’m all up for socializing, but when valuable time is taken up, not enough critiquing actually gets done and because of this the second problem stemmed from it that people towards the end of session would not get enough critique time. With some people getting 15 minutes and others getting a mere few minutes.

    I’m all for critique groups, but sometimes it may take longer than expected to find the perfect niche.

    One way to form a new group is when you attend a conference and you meet fellow writers that write in your genre you should exchange contact info (no matter what) and maybe possibly propose the idea of forming an online critique group if your contacts live far away from you.

    Have an inspiring week.

  2. Halaloda Says:

    I agreed with you

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