Monday, February 15, 2010

Critique Groups

Found a post on critique groups at Word Wenches today: Ask a Wench: Critique Groups. Something I've been pondering over the last year or so. I know that for myself, writing whatever it is I'm working on first, then forcing it on people seems to work, if only so I can get the starts and stops of a first draft out of the way first. Then again, having this blog to complain to also helps because I can send out a large mass hair-pulling moment and get replies! Yay!

From perusing various writing craft books in B&N, here's what I've surmised about writing: there's no right or wrong way to go about it. It's subjective. Therefore, I guess, no one can really claim to be an expert, huh?

At Word Wenches, several of the authors noted that in past critique groups, the people became nit-picky instead of being "big picture" kind of people--full plot, character, setting. That's definitely something I experienced in the workshopping classes I took in college. You're forced together in those classes; you might know that something is off in a piece, but at that stage, I certainly didn't know a way to go about making the piece better. I knew what I would do in the piece, which is fine, but isn't helping the author any.

I had begun to wonder how professional authors did it. They have editors and agents to read over their work, but on a more casual "omg-i don't know what i'm doing-why is this character so fucked up/unlikable?" level, I knew a few of them had critique partners. A few have blogged about critique groups.

Not to sound snobby or "I'm so over it," but I sat in workshops. I had two at a high school writing program at Columbia University, my first taste of that sort of thing, the first time I showed anyone but my best friend and my teachers something I'd written--and I had no idea what I was doing. The second summer around--same program--I did a little better, now having gotten the point, but I wasn't sure what to make of this discourse of ideas and suggestions. I didn't have a writing voice yet.

College: Well, I've mentioned that.

The Word Wenches make a point of mentioning that finding critiquers on the same wavelength, but who are brutally honest is the most important thing. For the moment, my friends--writing, non-writing--seem to fit the bill. I don't know that it was always the case, but my first taste of writing for an audience (fanfiction) was largely for them and they also suffered the wrath of the Ongoing Saga. And really, if someone can still be your friend after going through that debacle of about a million rewrites for one whole chapter (note to self: don't try to predict the future in fiction, unless it's fanfiction. It's never going to work), then they're friends for life.

Plus, friends buy you awesome books for the birthday and let you borrow awesome books of theirs in exchange for one of yours. And they let you go on and on and on about your book, even if they haven't read one word of it...

Currently adding first new scene into middle of chapter one.

And Happy Birthday to Katie!

Editing to add: Top Ten No-Nos in critique groups

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