Registration reminder and some critique group wisdom

Hello! Hope you’re enjoying our quick blast of mid-summer weather in our region. The forecast says storms on Thursday and then cooler temperatures. Rain or shine, we’re all about our Lucky 13 Conference: Make 2013 Your Year. If you haven’t registered yet, then you better get on it! This Friday, September 13th is your last chance.

Yes, that’s right. Friday the 13th.

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Make it your “Lucky” day and register!

Speaking of …. how lucky are we to have Shelley Koon  as our new critique group coordinator? She will be at the conference registering members who are interested in forming or joining a group. Shelley has graciously stopped by today to give us some invaluable advice with  Four Valid Reasons You Don’t Need a Critique Group  (and why they just might be the reasons you do).

Take it away, Shelley!

A couple of years ago when I decided to buckle down and get serious about writing a novel (you know, like a WHOLE one from beginning to end…) I debated looking for a critique group and at first, decided I didn’t really need one.  Why? Well:

  • I wasn’t a “new” writer. I’ve written for years and taken my fair share of creative writing courses
  • I’d written numerous half novels, short stories and journals over the years.  Sure, they’re not published but hey – I’m no stranger to the craft!
  • I’d been told by my family and friends that I’m a freaking AWESOME writer and I might as well just call up <insert agent name here> and let them know the dates I’m available to write for them
  • I felt time spent in a critique group and critiquing the work of others was time that would be better spent working on my own manuscript

Any of these reasons sounds familiar? I see some of you nodding out there! Would you be shocked if I, the self proclaimed critique group junkie, told you they’re all reasonable arguments against joining a critique group? What if I told you they’re also valid arguments for joining a critique group? Let’s take a second look at them from a slightly different angle:

“I’m not a new writer and have taken my fair share of writing courses”

Great!  You’re the perfect candidate for a critique group.  You know the basics and have probably mastered many of the “newbie” pitfalls like POV, show -vs- tell, tense issues and so forth. Critique groups are NOT workshops in which one learns to write.  The purpose of a critique group is to improve on what you already know and to help polish your MS get it ready for querying/publishing.

“I’ve written a number of unpublished novels, half-novels, short stories and journals, so I’m no stranger to the craft”

Me too! And most of them are still around. In a box. In the garage rafters. Under the Christmas decorations… **rocks back on heels and whistles** Many of us need some sort of accountability to keep our butts in the chair and actually write a story from beginning to end.  Critique groups provide solid deadlines that can go a long way to keeping us on track to complete our writing goals.

“My friends and family say I’m awesome and ready for publication.”

They should! Support and encouragement is something we all need to keep us moving forward. But while some family members can be objective, most simply cannot. A critique group can offer an unbiased and objective view of your writing. In addition, your critique group members are writers themselves and, if you’re in a group with others who write in your genre, they have a better sense of what your novel/book structure should be and what the current market is trending toward.

“I have limited time and need to focus on my writing.”

This is a valid excuse.  I mean really, with checking facebook and twitter every five minutes it’s tough to fit the rest of the day’s activities in!  Joking!  (kinda…)  We all have distractions that keep us from writing; kids, jobs, fitness, daily chores and so on, and yes it can be extremely tough to get a solid block of time to write. This one was tough for me because I had a great deal of guilt about going to a critique group when I should be writing. Then I read a post by Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) in which she said, and I quote:

“There is a fine line between persistent and stupid.

If my goal is to climb Mt. Everest but I’m on Mt. Shasta and refuse to give up even though I’m on the WRONG mountain, I am not persistent, I’m a moron.

I have a saying, Persistence looks a lot like stupid.”

I love Kristen – she says it like it is! I agree that writing time needs to be protected, it’s a precious commodity, BUT if your writing is wayyyyy off track and you have a ton of characterization issues and plot holes – does it matter that you dedicated all of your time to writing if it has a number of issues you may not realize? Are you running up Mt. Shasta? A critique group can get you off the wrong mountain direction you back to Mt. Everest. Chances are, in the long run, you’ll spend less time in a critique group than you will trying to determine why agents keep rejecting your MS, and ripping your hair out trying to fix it on your own.

So, there you have it. Four good reasons to join a critique group.  Need more?  You’re in luck – I’ve got 13 more for the Lucky 13 Conference! You’ll find them on the critique registration form inside your conference folder. See you then!

That was fantastic! Thanks so much, Shelley. Can’t wait to see you and learn more at the conference.

Happy writing and illustrating!

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About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
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