Tuesday, 21 October 2008
What Is A Critique Group Anyway?
Was a question my husband asked recently, even though I have been an active member of two groups for more than two years;
Me: It’s an online group where writers get together to read and comment on each other’s writing.
Husband: So how does it work then?
Me: I upload a chapter of my latest wip to the site and members will download it, make comments on the technical structure, characters and storyline and re-post it for me to look at.
Husband: That sounds like a lot of work.
Me: Actually it is, but the other members do it for me as well, so I receive a lot of help with my own story too.
Husband: What makes this group of random people qualified to do that?
Me: Some have degrees in creative writing and English literature, while others have years of writing and editing experience. But that’s not relevant, no one sets themselves up as an expert.
Husband: So why would any of them listen to you? And why do you listen to them?
Me: I offer advice which has been given to me by other writers and things I have learned along the way and pass them on to other writers. They don’t have to take the advice and nor do I.
Husband: But who’s to say you aren’t all simply recycling bad habits?
Me: Experience counts for a lot. The more you read, write and critique other’s work, the more you learn. My writing is totally different since I started with the groups.
Husband: In what way?
Me: Well, do you know what PoV, active versus passive voice, dialogue tags and showing versus telling means?
Husband: Not a clue.
Me: Well neither did I - but I do now.
Husband: But you spend more time commenting on other people’s work than you do on your own- what’s the point of that?
Me: Where else would I learn how to write a story unless people read it for me and give me feedback? Whenever I get stuck with a character or a storyline, the group have always got ideas on how to progress it.
Husband: I’ll bet they do.
Me: What do you mean by that?
Husband: Just that woman are good at making things up.
Me: There are men in these groups too – sometimes.
Husband: I wondered what the attraction was.
Me: I wish – no, this is intense training I could never get anywhere else. I wouldn’t consider anything I wrote ready for publication until it has been through at least one group. I’m putting my current wip through both of them.
Husband: Does it actually help, or do you just read what they have to say and stick with your original work anyway?
Me: I can if I want to, but actually I don’t. Every critique I receive, I run the comments alongside my writing to see if it makes the narrative sound better. It works more often than I care to admit.
Husband: So you re-write a chapter at least six times each? [Horrified look on face]
Me: More actually.
Husband: Is that really necessary?
Me: Writing is re-writing.
Husband: Who said that?
Me: No idea, I heard it somewhere.
Husband: On a critique group?
Me: Possibly. It's true though.
Husband: Hmm.......sounds like an awful lot of intense work for nothing.
Me: If you mean cash – and I know you do, that’s not the point. It might help make me a bestselling author. Even if it doesn’t, I really enjoy it.
Husband: But you are glued to that computer all the time!
Me: I think about my characters in bed too.
Me: Nothing. Oooh! What's that noise?
Husband: It's the vacuum cleaner
Me: I knew that.
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