You’ve spent hours, days, and years (yes, I said years – even with picture books) on a manuscript.
You’ve gone over it a gazillion times. You finally push yourself back from the computer and declare it ready.
But is it?
You’ve grown accustomed to your characters, their subtle and outlandish flaws, their quirks that make them – them! You have mapped out your setting and know every stone and corner in your story’s world. You know the conflict everything is a part of and everyone one is going through. So can you really “see” your story now???
Chances are, No.
This is where a second (or third or fourth or ???…) set of eyes can come into play. BUT do not get your best friend or your mother or someone close to read it and tell you what they think. Although there is nothing wrong with them reading it. 😉 Get a group of your peers to look over it.
A critique group is just that… a group of your peers who are willing to give feedback. You, in return, give your opinion on their story too. They are also someone who is pursuing a career in writing and will be able to look at your material more critically than someone who isn’t in the field.
Some people are leery of doing this. They have heard of ideas being stolen. Harsh criticism on work to where the writer is left in tears. There are hurt feelings and deeper scars when it comes to trust.
BUT, BUT, BUT!!! There are people out there (AMAZING people) who are willing and lovely, and who will send out positivity into you and your work. It may take a few tries to find the right people in which you click with. You may have to weed out and resow with new people when a few don’t work. That is part of the process though. When you do find the right people, something will click! You will see that there are brilliant people who will push you further than you thought you could go. They will help your skills improve and the end result will be your career will begin to take shape.
What Should You Look For?
- Look for someone who is like-minded.
You want someone who has goals similar to yours. Are you wanting to get published? Find an agent? Just get some words down? Find people who will push you (and you push them) to the next level.
A lot of people think if you write a book, you can critique anything. Nope, nope, nope. I tell people it’s like dogs…
A Chihuahua is a dog, a Lab is a dog, and a St. Bernard is a dog. (yes)
Would you give them the same food? (no)
Would you give them the same amount of medicine? (no)
Do they take up the same amount of room? (no)
The same amount of upkeep? (no)
The same is true with your writing. Sure board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books, mid grade, young adult, and new adult are ALL children’s writing. BUT they are different writing styles, how you approach the subject matter, IF you approach the subject matter, word count, and on and on.
- Rhyming and non-rhyming
Oh how I love rhyming, but my own critique group will tell you it’s not my strong point. (hahaha, I try.) Rhyming is very tough to do, to keep it within certain parameters, to not force the issue, to not do something just to make it fit, to not write it badly. There are some wonderful people out there that can do this though. Study their work if you choose to do this. Make sure your critique group is on board with you on the rhyming bit too.
- Time commitment.
Are you wanting someone who is only going to put 10-15 minutes of thought into a critique or are you wanting more in depth feedback? Line by line or overall thoughts? Nitpick or over-easy remarks? The more in depth someone goes, the more time they will need to spend on your work. (Which they hope you will do the same with theirs.) Make sure it is something you are comfortable with and are able to do.
How To Get Started?
Put a call out or scan around and see if someone else is already looking.
Set up guidelines: What you expect from each other. Turn around time. What needs to be said when sending work. HOW to send work. etc. The more specific you get, the better your expectations will be.
Honestly, I’ve been in a few critique groups. Some have been better than others. I have made some great, great, GREAT friends along the way too. I hope this helps ease your mind about critique groups and helps show how to get the ball rolling too.
:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know what you think about critique groups?
Are you in one or more?
What have been the benefits/set backs?
Until next time…
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