Mistakes Made When Starting Out in a Critique Group

Critique groups are invaluable.

I mention them a lot. Like, every few blog posts. Well, okay, maybe not that often but often enough that you get the picture.

In my last zoom interview, I reiterated I wouldn’t be where I am today with two published books without my critique partners and my editor.

BUT when I started writing again in September 2014 and joined an online critique website in January 2015, it was a mixed bag experience for me.

Why?

Well, it’s because I had a lot to learn in my writing.

The “rules” in how to write a novel, novella, or short story. They all required the same basic elements: character ARCs, the different points of view, story structure, setting/scenes, natural and realistic dialogue, a believable and solid plot, vivid descriptions, and well-developed characters.

I’m sure I missed something in that list. Nevertheless, it will work for what I’m talking about in this particular post.

In joining the online critique group, I learned rapidly these elements, especially points of view, character development, plot, and engaging dialogue.

But in the process, something unfortunate happened.

Something that caused me to nearly lose my ability to write when I’d just started writing again after nearly eighteen years away from the craft.

I couldn’t decipher well which criticisms were constructive and pertinent to how I wanted to revise and edit my storylines and characters. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough then.

Because of my lack of understanding and knowledge on this, I ended up losing my voice, my writing style, and ability to write easily or naturally. My sentences became mechanical, stilted, and plain boring.

With that, confidence in my craft plummeted for several months. Nearly a year.

I was in college then, so I had many papers to write and course work to read over daily. Therefore, I didn’t wallow in my loss of my art, but it did surface at times, and it didn’t feel very good.

Eventually, I went back into my online critique site and posted the story again, after having made many massive changes via rewrites and drastic changes to the opening chapter and a few other chapters within the novel.

Somehow, along the way, I found I couldn’t write the way people suggested I write, which, in reality, was writing the way they thought was the right way or their way. I could only write my way, through my voice and my style.

Because every writer has her own voice and style and is unique.

Once I’d discovered this, I felt comfortable again in my own skin, and confidence blossomed within me as a capable writer.

From that point on, the ability to discern which feedback was useful or not came more clearly and easily to me.

Sometimes I get the general feedback about not using “to be” verbs or “filter” words, like “thought”, “looked”, “felt”, etc. I ditched this worry, which had originally caused my writing to turn into drivel and eventually come to an abrupt stop for a few months.

Why did I ditch this reasonable advice? Because I read fiction novels by bestselling authors, and every single filter word critics had mentioned and I had read in writing books were sprinkled throughout those popular and engrossing novels. The key is using them sparingly, every so often.

Therefore, if you’re looking to join a critique group or have recently joined, please keep in mind that it takes a while to discern which feedback will be useful to you in your writing.

BUT never give up your voice or writing style.

Nobody has your voice or writing style.

Just you.

And that makes you and your writing unique and important.

If you preserve that, critique groups are gems, and you can acquire wonderful, dedicated critique partners that help sculpt your work into stellar finished products.

Now, go out there in the writing realm and be you.

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Authenticity in Writing

Although all of us authors/writers must do some research in writing our stories when we do not know enough about a certain subject matter, the value of critiques from various other writers is that you learn vital information you may have missed.

You are always learning something new, and with that crucial information provided by your critiques, your story becomes more authentic, which is what we always want for our fiction works.

I gained knowledge in a particular subject this morning to help make one of my character’s hobbies more realistic and believable.

Fellow writers, I hope you are able to connect with critique partners to help strengthen your stories.

Thank God for critiques/feedback!

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What it Means to be a Credible and Professional Writer

woman reading

 

In the last several months, I’ve discovered a certain method gaining traction in self-publishing on Amazon that is concerning to me.

I don’t write this blog to offend or upset any of my fellow writers. However, this practice is worrisome to me, so I feel the need to share it and perhaps encourage people to take a more credible, professional, and elevated strategy on how to publish your work on such platforms as Amazon.

As I said, in the last several months, I’ve seen and read comments from some writers (a very small amount at this time, thankfully) that they publish their novels on Amazon without having completely finalized, polished, or professionally edited their work. If they are notified of errors, they fix them and re-publish their novels. Not once, but two or three times whenever they receive new feedback or perhaps hear from a traditional or independent publisher.

This practice comes off as using Amazon as their critique partner or critique group instead of utilizing a real one and employing a true professional editor to look over your work before putting it out there in e-book or print form.

In doing this, it sends a message that one can go the hastened, sloppy, or lazy route because they are wanting to put out their books as soon as possible.

I totally understand the huge desire to put out your work for others to read as quickly as possible. But I suggest if you are wanting people to read what you’ve written immediately after you’ve finished and looked over it a few times, give a rough copy to friends, families, critique partners in some other capacity, not on a public publishing platform where readers expect to be perusing clean, edited, and superbly-written books.

This method of using Amazon as a testing place or critique group takes away the credibility of other writers who may go the self-publishing route and have worked very hard to make their work as professional and clean as possible. It also takes away a reader’s faith in self-publishing authors. At least it does for me.

Personally, I wouldn’t dream of putting any of my fiction work out there without having gone through the proper channels of critique groups/partners, revising and editing my work to the point of as close to perfection as humanly possible, and finishing with professional editing.

You want your work to be the best it can be. The writing, top notch. Proofread and edited as best as can possibly be done.

As a reader, that’s what I expect when I pick up a novel to read. I wouldn’t expect my writing to be a lower standard than my reading expectations.

I think the hard work you put into your created stories will do exceptionally well if the story is appealing to your audience, and you implement the processes I mentioned above. Combine all of those elements, and I believe you’ll go far.

 

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