I have an amazing critique group. We even have a name – The Bodacious Music City Wordsmiths. BMW’s for short. This compilation of writers range from New York published authors to independently published authors to short story authors to authors whose first books aren’t out yet to unpublished authors. There’s one key ingredient that brings us together. We all love to write, and that respect carries over into our WIPs (works in progress).
Critique groups catch a lot of flak. Let me tell you, finding a good one takes time and effort, but a good critique group is worth its weight in gold.
When I was invited to join the BMW’s, I was thrilled and scared. I’d just come out of a different critique group, one that had really cooled my jets on having a group of people review my work. And I’d never even given them my work to critique.
We had a tyrannical leader who was really harsh, and not shy in his views. If things didn’t match what he thought they should, he harangued and brow beat the issue. He wasn’t critiquing, he was being critical. There’s a HUGE difference. Feelings got hurt, people lost interest, and we were over before we even began. It wasn’t the greatest experience, and I was a little leery about joining another. But I knew that I needed some outside input on my work, so I agreed to come to a meeting.
I was hooked from moment one.
All critique groups are set up in different ways, but the gist is you bring your pages, read them aloud and the group, obviously, critiques your work. In the BMW’s we bring 10 pages. Each person reads their work, then it’s a free-for-all. Likes, dislikes, comma splices, misused words, too much sex, too little sex, too many F-Bombs, your character is doing something unbelievable, your setting doesn’t work. Anything and everything is fair game. Sounds rough, doesn’t it?
The reason it works is that we all genuinely care about helping each other become better writers. Egos are checked at the door. Personal feelings are checked at the door. We’re all friends and there’s no need to worry that we’re going to hurt someone’s feelings because we find ways to work together for solutions to problems. That’s the key ingredient to any good group. Feel free to point out the glaring errors, just have a suggestion for how to make it better.
For me, the group has brought me out of my shell. When I first started with them, I could barely read my work aloud. It was mortifying. But a great lesson for the future. And now I look forward to my twice monthly meetings. They keep me focused on my work. I know that I’m required to show up with ten new pages every two weeks, and let me tell you, that keeps your nose to the grindstone.
I’ve asked my fellow BMW’s a question. What’s the most important thing you get out of the BWs and critique groups in general. Here’s some of the answers:
· Alternate perspective. Like most people, I haven’t always written what I think. The group sees what’s on paper, not what I was thinking.
· Besides heads-up help, shared knowledge.
For me, I find that I get such a sense of camaraderie from my group. Knowing I’m not the only one having issues and eureka moments really helps me engage. Whether you’re a new writer or an old hat, a critique group can help your writing improve.
Have any critique group suggestions/stories to share?
Some secrets should stay buried…
All The Pretty Girls — November 2007 from Mira Books
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