Posts Tagged With: critique group

Fight! Critique group vs. critique group

This past Friday, my Nova Scotia cousin kindly invited me to her long-standing critique group, since she knew I was new to the province and desperately need to get myself up-to-speed with the local writing scene. As we gathered around the living room with glasses of wine and freshly baked bread, it occurred to me that the experience was vastly different from my critique group in London. I can see pros and cons to both sides, which has led me to …

Fight! Critique group vs. critique group MORTAL KOMBAT TO THE DEATH!

Round 1 Challenger: London, Ontario Critique Group

Pros

  • Monday meet-ups from 7-10 — This allowed me the whole weekend to finish up our pieces, as well as gave me something to look forward to on a dreary Monday
  • 2-3 pieces read aloud, then critiqued — This A) meant I didn’t have to spend time reading the pieces before the group, and B) gave us lots of time to explore the piece in depth, providing a more thorough critique

Cons

  • If any one piece was dull, it meant a full hour of dullness
  • If the reader read their piece aloud too quickly, it was hard to follow and I got confused
  • I couldn’t help but make minor grammatical and spelling corrections along the way, making it harder to focus on the big picture elements

Round 2 Challenger: Halifax, Nova Scotia Critique Group

Pros

  • Friday meet-ups from 8-11 — This means I don’t have to worry about having energy the next day, as it’s a Friday! On the other hand, I get tired easily, so 11 is pushing it a little late
  • Send pieces by email beforehand, then discuss at group — This means A) upwards of 5 people can get their work critiqued over the course of the evening, and B) we don’t have to print off 40+ pages if we want a piece critiqued

Cons

  • Without the piece in front of me, I sometimes forgot why I had written down a specific piece of criticism — meaning my critique was less in-depth as a result
  • Some of the submitted pieces were novels, meaning we just read what we can each week — This means, however, that different people are at different points in the story, meaning I can’t follow half the critiques because I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about
  • Sometimes I really need that extra few hours before the meet-up to put the finishing touches on my piece — but then I would submit it so late, no one would have a chance to read!

Time! Winner … undecided?

 

Thoughts on my pros/cons list, and which style of group is better? What’s the best critique group you’ve been in, and how did it run? Inquiring minds want to know!

 

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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.

Success!

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?

 

Unrelated media of the day:

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

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