Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hurrah for my Critique Group!

I have started submitting chapters from my second Midnight Ink mystery, which I'm calling Evil Eddies, to my writing critique group, even though I haven't finished writing the rough draft manuscript. I'm about 2/3rds of the way through. I've received feedback from the group on the first two chapters, and they will both be soooo much better after I incorporate the group's suggestions! The group members are once again proving their high value to me, and I am a much, much better writer because of them.

It is vitally important for authors to have either a critique group or a few trusted first readers to run our manuscripts through before they go to our editors. We need fresh eyes to read those words and fresh brains to try to decipher those sentences and understand those characters and plot points so mistakes can be found. And there are always mistakes! No matter how carefully I pour over my chapters before submitting them to critique group, there are always mistakes. But, because of the group members' thorough review, most of those mistakes get fixed before my editor sees them. And that makes me look good for my editor. I know that it's because of my critique group that my manuscripts only need light editing before they're published as books.

One thing I always do, though, and I advise other writers to do with their critique groups or first readers, is to get at least halfway through the first draft of your book manuscript before you start submitting chapters for review. This is so you have a firm idea of where you're going with the story and who your characters are and can evaluate suggestions from the group against those firm ideas. Then you'll have a basis for deciding which suggestions to use and which would derail you from your plan.

Otherwise, if you keep re-writing the first three chapters based on multiple people's opinions (which, unfortunately, I've see writers do), you'll end up with mud. Your unique voice will have been lost. However, making the opposite mistake of going it alone all the way won't help you, either, and could very well prevent you from getting published. If your critique group or first readers aren't working for you, find some others, but don't give up on the concept all together.

I know for a fact that I would not be published without my critique group, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have them. Hurray for my critique group!


Anonymous said...

Beth - I'm very happy for you that you've got a trusted critique group! I agree 100% that it's vital to have trusted people read one's work and comment. I really so heavily on my "beta readers".... I look forward to your book when it comes out : ).

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love my critique group and thank my lucky stars for bringing us together. Like you, I'd sure hate to go it alone.