So I ran the first chapter of Chasing Nonconformity by my critique group …

… and they didn’t hate it!

It was a fairly nerve-wracking experience — after all, despite how much we writers talk about loving it when people read our work and tell us what they think, in truth we’re absolutely terrified at the idea. What if they hate it? What if they think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read, but are too polite to tell us to our face? Etc. But I persevered!

Going into the reading, I asked my group to look out for certain things (feel free to steal these if you’re working on your own first chapter):

  • Do you get a good sense of who the characters are? Can you picture what they look like? Do they have a distinctive voice when they’re talking?
  • Do you get a good sense of the setting? Is it interesting? More description or less?
  • In terms of plot exposition, too much or too little? Do you know why the characters are here and what they want? Is it over-explained? Is it under-explained?
  • (And now for the most important question …) Does the first chapter make you want to keep reading the book?

Overall, they enjoyed it. They suggested a bit more description in some parts, and less in others. They agreed that I over-explained the characters’ purpose (I think I mention it like 5 times over the course of the chapter), so that’s something I’ll need to cut down and work into the flow of dialogue a little bit more seamlessly. And, thank God, they said it was intriguing and that they’d like to read more.


I was actually so nervous about sharing the chapter that my stomach went completely nuts and started … well, we won’t go into that. Long story short, I had some tea, took a few deep breaths, shared the story, accepted all criticism with thanks and a smile, and got out alive. What more can a writer ask for?


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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 24 Comments

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24 thoughts on “So I ran the first chapter of Chasing Nonconformity by my critique group …

  1. Constructive critique is always useful. It’s why good critique groups are worth their weight in gold.

    • Agreed! It’s actually sort of awkward, because I’m the VP of my writers society, and I keep opening up the monthly meetings by explaining how awesome critique groups are … but the person in charge of actually getting people into the critique groups is really slow, so I’m basically telling people “join a critique group, except oh wait, you can’t actually do that, lololol”.

  2. I wish I had a critique group outside my classmates. I sort of corralled some former classmates into a google drive group…but there’s not much traffic. Good to hear that your first chapter got encouraging feedback! Best of luck with the rest!

    • Thanks! I really lucked out with this group — the people are really nice, and really knowledgeable, which is great 🙂 Have you tried joining a local writers society? They might have some critique groups you could join.

      • I actually just googled and found some promising things–I’m going to keep looking, though! Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  3. Great questions. Wish I had a critique group. You can’t beat honest feedback.

    • It’s true. And the feedback is immediate, which is so great — you know, as opposed to send out your manuscript and hearing back from your beta readers weeks later 🙂

  4. Gwen Stephens

    I remember a post a while back in which you wrote about having your mom read an early draft of something (was it this novel?) — but in essence she told you it sucked because nothing was happening! Is this the same work? Glad your critique group was intrigued! Good partners are a must.

    • Good memory! That was actually a different book (thank God, lol). And she was write — there was an appalling amount of nothing happening, so I’m … well, I’m working on it, lol.

      This is for the sequel to Imminent Danger, and hopefully it doesn’t suck quite as much 🙂 It actually really surprised me that I got such good feedback — not because I necessarily think the chapter is terrible, but because my critique group are a bit older than me, and tend to read more hardcore stuff like heavy sci-fi or high fantasy or whatever, so a fluffy teen sci-fi romance romp is a little bit outside their comfort zone 🙂

      • Gwen Stephens

        I think good writing is good writing, no matter the genre or reading preference. Ride the positive feedback wave!

  5. Congratulations! I think every person would be nervous. You are showing something that’s in your heart and personal. That’s tough. Sounds like you did wonderfully! 🙂

    • Thanks 🙂 Even though I’ve shared passages with the group before, it’s still tough every time, you know? Like, last time the writing was well-received, but who knows what horrible things they might say this time? So I breathlessly mumbled my way through the first few paragraphs, stopped, took a deep breath, and then continued in a semi-calm (possibly even sassy) manner through to the end. Mission success!!!

  6. Yay! This truly shows the value of having others review your work with you. Not only for the constructive feedback, but the positive affirmation 🙂

    • Positive affirmation is SO important. I think that’s what a lot of people forget when they’re critiquing other writers’ works. It’s like, yes, I want you to give me your honest opinion and tell me where I can improve, but please at least try to start and end on the parts you liked!!!

  7. Yeah, that’s great news. I get nervous with each blog post I publish, I can’t imagine getting live feedback from a group. I’m so glad you had the courage to share and the feedback was constructive and positive!! My stomach would have done all those sorts of things too 😉

    By the way, great questions. I’m saving them for when I get the courage to share my first chapter. Thanks for that!

    • No problem 🙂 It helped that I’d read things at the group before, so I knew that the reaction — even if they didn’t love it — would still be polite and constructive. It’s actually harder, in a way, to write a blog, because people have so much less of a filter on the internet in comparison to real life! Still, the WordPress community is pretty fantastic 🙂

  8. Therin Knite

    Congrats! Glad you got some good feedback. It’s always nice to have a critique group.

    • Thanks 🙂 I only started with the group about a year ago, and man oh man has it been helpful! I actually find I learn more from listening to other people’s work getting critiqued than reading my own writing!

  9. That’s pretty much all you can ask for, isn’t it? Damn focus groups, they’re always so nitpicky and can’t agree on anything!

  10. It’s really awesome that you’ve found a group you can trust with honest feedback. I’ve just got my first chapter sitting idly on my blog waiting for someone to comment on it with feedback, be it bad or good.

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