The Lutheran Theological Seminary ~ Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner
Last Saturday, I went to a writers group meeting at a local coffee house. The group has many talented writers, several which are published. We all bring something to read that we’ve written—a poem, a chapter, a part of a screen play, or even a letter. It had been awhile since I had come to a meeting because Saturday afternoons are just a hard time for me to get away. Sometimes I’m working or it’s spent with the family if I’m off. Six showed up at the Saturday meeting. I brought the first chapter of the book that I will be querying soon. Nope, I still haven’t queried yet. The book is not quite ready.
We pass out copies of the material to be read. After reading half of my first chapter out loud, I was very pleased at the response, but also at the incredible advice I received from my fellow writers. There was a paragraph pointed out to me that needed some structural work and a few grammar mistakes. It’s funny how you can be so close to the material and not see what needs to be fixed—even after going over it umpteen million times…very, very helpful. After realizing this, I can’t express enough the importance of critique partners that you can be honest with and that will be honest with you. Outside of the group, I have two individual partners that give me sincere feedback.
A critique from a group is different than from an individual partner.
As in any group, I was suddenly hit with a barrage of suggestions, likes and dislikes, grammar, or the removal of an unnecessary phrase or sentence. I loved it! At times, I couldn’t keep up with writing down all of the excellent points. During this session, something else important also happened. There was one man there who was very quiet as others were voicing their technical opinions. When questions arose about the heroine’s sister, he spoke up. He was the only one who could see the direction I was going with the story after one half of a chapter. His insight was amazing. He didn’t seem interested in the grammar or sentence structure…he was really interested in the story. That spoke volumes to me.
When I got home, I waded through all the evaluations that I had received. You have to go on your gut instinct at this point—use what makes sense, what is true, and throw away the rest. I believe I received that same advice when raising my children. Like we know our own children, we know our own stories. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated all the good and negative points I got. It opened my eyes. I’m going through the book one last time before I query.
I believe we can receive valuable help and information from using both group and individual partners.
Do you have a critique partner or group? What tips could you share about appraising someone else’s work? Have you had good experiences in a group situation? Which do you like better - group or individual reviews? I do it as much as anyone ~ Do you think that sometimes we just need to turn off that internal editor and enjoy the story?
I would love to hear from you.
I would love to hear from you.
Between you, me and the gatepost,