Purpose of Crit Groups
Let me preface this post by stating this: I am part of one of the best critique groups on the planet. You’ve heard me reference my bloodthirsty crit partners several times. And I probably should point out that my bloodthirsty crit partners are also contributors to this resource.
Kim, Becca, and Kayla, take a bow. Grin your bloodthirsty grins. Now wave!
I bet you’re staring at your screen wondering why I call these beautiful ladies bloodthirsty. Seems kind of graphic and violent, huh?
Well, when they get done with parts of my manuscript the thing bleeds so badly it needs a tourniquet. Truthfully—they are violent when it comes to less-than-stellar prose.
Which is a good thing.
Friends don’t let friends submit stinky writing.
Let me give a brief history of our particular group. After serving as Kim’s body guard a loooooooong time ago, (yes, there is a story there, but for another time), she invited me to come to her house—1.5 hours away—to be part of a critique group. The group met every week. My door to hers was exactly 100 miles. I also had a baby (oh my WORD! He was a BABY back then! He is TEN now!)
Writers came and went in the group as the bloodthirsty nature revealed itself. The membership settled on Kim, Becca, Kayla, and me. Kim was the only one with a real book at the time. Welcome Home had recently come out. I think she had a devotional as well and was under contract with Kayla for their first novel, No Safe Haven. Becca and I had visions of printed pages swimming in our little eyes.
Fast forward to now.
Kim is on… what? Book 12 ish? Kayla has at least two. Becca’s had a few novellas published, with more under contract. My second novel comes out in April and I’ve started the third. All traditionally published. Kim, Becca, and Kayla have agents. I used to have an agent until Frankenknee (another story – let’s say life took me out for a few years), but I am currently seeking representation to forward my career.
I would NOT be published today if I didn’t have my bloodthirsty crit partners. The same goes for Becca. Our last names aren’t “Woodhouse” (they both have superpowers and would be published regardless, I am sure of it).
Why did I drive 200 miles round trip, once a week for YEARS to have my precious words eviscerated and disemboweled?
Because I wanted to be a published writer. I wanted to get better. And to get better, I needed to play with those above me on the food-chain of writing. I remember someone saying, if you want to get good at tennis, play against people who will kick your patooty all over the court. Don’t play people you beat every time. One day you will tie or beat your challengers and be excellent at the game.
Same principle here. You NEED to get feedback from writers who are farther along in the writing game than you are. Preferable someone who is published. They have walked the road you want to travel.
Let go of your ego. Give permission for your partners to be honest—brutally honest. All of us have submitted work to the group that was barf-worthy. We’ve had to scrap it and start over. I remember reading something Becca sent years ago that was under a deadline. Kayla and I read it together and we were like – ooh. This is not the Becca we know and love! We told her. She started over and sent something the next day. Better, but not quite there yet. We were honest. She put her fingers to the keyboard and kept trying. When it was submitted, her editor raved!
Friends don’t let friends submit junk.
Recently, my bloodthirsty crit partners had a “come to Jesus” meeting with me. They had chatted amongst themselves and decided I set the bar too low for myself. They challenged me (with death threats and all) to prepare a suspense idea and seek agent representation. First assignment was the dreaded synopsis. I usually write those AFTER I write my book (just saying). With words of love cloaked with even more death threats, my fellow critters would not let me do my Darcie-as-usual. I was given a few DAYS to submit a synopsis.
They texted me.
Early in the morning—late at night—made sure I did it.
I was so proud of myself when I hit send. We called in on the conference call (we live in three different states now). I asked them what they thought.
The consensus was that it was awful. And awful was a kind adjective. “Do it again!” they cried in unison.
After the third or fourth submission and more collective “nopes”, I nearly gave up. I was in tears. I wanted to quit. Seriously. I wanted to quit writing all together. What was the point? I could. Not. Get. It. Right.
Don’t try quitting when you have bloodthirsty crit partners! They encouraged me. They refused to let me quit. I think Kim and Becca both threatened to show up in Wyoming and string me up by my toenails.
I kept at it. One day Becca told me it was brilliant. Kim said it was okay. I lived to write another day!
It’s important to note that we do tell each other when someone’s writing is awesome. We celebrate and make a big deal of a well-done job. But that doesn’t come easy. We make one another work for such moments.
What is a crit group for? Making each other better at the craft and supporting one another on the long writing journey.
To sum it all up, here’s what to look for in a crit group:
* at least one or more writers who are farther down the road – at least agented or even published
* people who will be honest with each other about the writing – you don’t want a love fest where everyone feeds the ego
* commitment – writing is a long, arduous journey. It’s not a few weeks and done. We have been together for almost a DECADE! And we plan on going for another, Lord willing.
* accountability – friends don’t let friends submit stinky writing! That needs to be your motto. Nor will they allow you to give up when the industry or times get tough.
* friendship – you gotta like, if not love each other
Kim, Becca, and Kayla are more than my bloodthirsty crit partners, they are my sisters. I wouldn’t trade them for all the money or books in the world.
I am a much better writer and person because of them.
Now go find yourself some bloodthirsty critters!
With Pen to Paper,