|Posted by Kristen Hamilton on April 13, 2019 at 2:05 AM|
I’m just going to say it: If you’re a serious author, you need to be a part of a writers’ critique group. But if you’re an introvert like me, you might be a little hesitant in meeting with a group of strangers (they’re authors, too...but still!) and baring your writing.
To demystify the process of joining a critique group, I connected with children's book author Kelly McIntire, who has brought up her critique group many times in the years I’ve worked with her! She’s found her critique group to be uber helpful—and you can too, as long as you join the right one.
I interviewed Kelly about her writing/critique group, and picked out her best insights to share with you.
1. Find a good critique group.
It seems like writers' critique groups are a dime a dozen, but how can you make sure you've found the right one? You can use established online writers' groups like Scribophile, or you can find local critique groups at Meetup.com.
Not all writers' groups are created equal, though. Trust me on this—I've seen my fair share of groups that are not conducive to good writing, and have a negative vibe. Yikes! If you don't feel welcome or happy going to your meetings, find a different group. The goal here is to find other writers who offer constructive criticism.
Your writers' group experience should be a positive one. As Kelly says about her group, "All of us are able to laugh at ourselves. They are smart, honest, and they hold me accountable to putting out the best work I am capable of. If my pages aren’t up to par, they let me know. If I’ve cut a corner, they call me out. They are kind, but demanding."
2. Be honest with your struggles.
Not all writers' critique groups are focused on the workship format. A good critique group is also your community of support—so that means authors might have discussions about other aspects of the writing business. As Kelly says, "We primarily discuss the work we’ve submitted for critique, but we also talk about sales and publicity, roadblocks we’re facing creatively, and the difficulties we have marketing our products."
Seeing what other people are doing, and what ideas work, will help you on your path to creating a successful author business.
3. Pull your own weight.
Usually, every time authors meet (this is usually once per month, but this varies by the group) they share their stories with each other. Often, writers will submit pages to each other before the scheduled meeting so everyone has an opportunity to critique each other's work.
When you're a part of a group, though, you have to make sure you're pulling your own weight by being a good critiquer yourself. "We all work very hard on our critiques to make sure that we’re providing the type of feedback that will make everyone else’s work high quality. They push me and I try to push them. They also make me write consistently. I know I have to submit pages every other week, so I make sure I’m on track with my writing."
4. Develop thick skin.
When other writers in your group are offering constructive criticism, sometimes you have a tough pill to swallow. The words you've written might not match your vision, as Kelly said. Sometimes someone might point out a big issue in your book, which might be tough to hear.
Above all, the atmosphere should never be hurtful or negative—this goes back to tip #1, Find a good critique group. As Kelly says, "There’s a lot of respect between us, and over time, we’ve become friends. When I submit pages to be critiqued or edited, I strive to make my work the best I can make it on my own. I then try to check my ego."
Being actively involved in a writers' group will help bring your manuscript to the level it needs to be, and developing that thick skin will help you be able to distinguish the sometimes-difficult choices you need to make when working with a book editor (ahem, like changing the entire narrative style, which I did on Kelly's novel, and which she took in stride like a champ).
But the result will be so worth it. You'll make friends, get reviewers, and best of all, improve your book. And joining a writers' critique group works. Kelly's novel Time Twisted was in really great shape as a "raw" manuscript before I started editing it, and at the time of this writing, it has six 5-star reviews just a couple months after its publication. I count that as a WIN!
Want to learn more about how to build your author brand and become a self-publishing pro?
Kristen Hamilton is a fiction book editor for self-publishing and traditionally publishing authors. With astounding
qualifications, an impressive portfolio, and a flawless mastery of the complexities of the English language, Kristen
is a reputable manuscript editor for first-time and veteran authors. Several of the books she has edited have
Kristen is currently accepting all genres of book manuscripts but is particularly fond of plot-driven fiction. Please
your writing career.
In her free time, Kristen enjoys reading alongside her three cats, watching cat videos and scary movies, eating pizza,
teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.