Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Critters Make me Happy

Today is the day I normally do my reviews. But, with the holidays and traveling with the fam, I wasn't able to finish a book. I wish I could do some reviews on unpublished books I've read. I've read a couple really good ones lately and have just started another really good one. But, as much as I want to rave about my awesomely talented friends, I fear it would only do two things. 1. It would be a big tease to you because it's not like you can go out and pick these books up. And 2. It would make me seem like a braggart (which I possibly am, but don't want to make it quite so obvious).

So, the thing I would like to discuss today is something we've discussed before and you probably already know, but I want to reiterate the necessity of having a critique group. Not just any critique group, but a great one.

A good beta reader does the following:

1. Makes you feel good about yourself and motivates you to be your best.

2. Gives you good suggestions that make sense with your story.

3. Doesn't try to change your story or writing to sound more like their writing/story.

4. Feels comfortable pointing out things that don't work in a way that makes you think about possible alternatives and not in a way that makes you want to hide your face in shame for having written such an obvious plot hole into your story.

5. Is also a writer. I'm not discounting non-writers as an important part of the reading process. I just think it's necessary to have writers in a critique group because let's face it, writers have lots of practice, not only in writing, but in reading.

I'm sure there are things I'm missing in the list. If you have a necessary characteristic that your critters must possess, leave it in the comments section.

I'm very lucky to have an awesome group of betas. A mistake I made when I first started writing was having too many betas. Too many people telling you the flaws in your story just leads to too many conflicting opinions. I now keep my first round of betas to a minimum and only let people outside that initial round read it when I feel all the wrinkles have been ironed out. After that, if in a second round, several people point out the same problem, I work on resolving it.

So how do you go about finding a critique group if you don't have one already? If you are one of those who already has one, leave a comment saying how you got together with your critique group. I feel very lucky that my best friend (Candi) and I discovered we were both secretly writing novels at the same time. We became each others instant critique group.

From this I learned not to keep my writing a secret. When I shared what I was doing with others, I learned I wasn't alone in my desire to be published. And as more and more people learned that I was writing, it became a good motivator for me to succeed.

After that, Candi and I joined a local face to face group that met every other week. From that group, which I no longer attend due to scheduling conflicts, I still keep in contact with 3 writers (Linda, Tricia, and Ed).

From this I learned to use the resources that were available around me. It helped me to be comfortable sharing my work with complete strangers and having my work discussed in a group format (which was very hard at first).

My other 2 betas I met online over a year ago (Natalie and Jenn).

From this I learned that the internet is an invaluable tool. It has brought me together with some awesome people that I love and it has also taught me more about writing and this publishing industry that I used to think was a big mystery.

Even though first drafting can be a lonely endeavor, the process to publication is something no writer can do alone. I'd like to thank all my betas for helping me polish my works. And I'd like to thank all my other readers (mostly family) that give me the confidence I need to keep pushing forward. You guys are the best.

9 comments:

  1. I'm anxious about this part of my writing journey in 2010. I met a wonderful lady blogging who I had an immediate appreciation for that also has mountains of experience and publication under her belt.

    This year I will happily pass along my work for her to devour! Yikes! This should get interesting.

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  2. I definitely don't know what I'd do without them. They've helped make my writing better.

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  3. I love my group, too. They're some of my best friends and their advice and ideas are spot-on. They have different writing backgrounds, too, so their varied perspectives really help.

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  4. This post is so beyond true. Beta readers are priceless, as are critique groups.

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  5. I met my crit group from blogging. I talked about that in my post today, along with all of the fears that come with sharing your work. But I've grown so much as a writer since joining them.

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  6. You made me miss my old critique group from before I left California! *sniff sniff* I need to work harder on finding beta readers who are also writers... thanks for the reminder on what I'm missing.

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  7. I'm grateful for my critters. They have helped make my writing better.

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  8. I absolutely agree. I have amazing betas too! ;) I also wanted to add a plug for long-term crit groups. As they become more familiar with your work they'll be able to really spot where you struggle and help you shore up your weak points.

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  9. Besides the points you mentioned, I also find critique groups are valuable for the fellowship and therapy they provide. (I bet you didn't know you've been my therapist all this time. Please don't send me a bill; I can't afford it; I'm on a writer's salary [which is nothing, as in zero])

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