I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:
- This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
- Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
- We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.
The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.
When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:
- How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
- When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
- What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
- What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
- How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?
Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?
My Goals (resolutions) for the year are:
- Piece at least three quilt tops
- Finish at least three quilts
- Write 10k a month
- Submit to critique group at least eight times
- Exercise twice a week
- Continue to get more out of the house than comes in
- Set up the crafting corner in the study
Some of these are easy to quantify. I’ve set up the numbers below for those:
- Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
- Finish at least three quilts – 0/3
- Write 10k a month – 0/110,000 (I’m not including Nov in this)
- Submit to critique group at least eight times – 0/8
- Exercise twice a week – 8/96
Can’t say I’m doing too well so far this year. I must strive to do better.
The last two items I can’t track in terms of numbers though. This makes it tough to report in on, but I do want to keep myself accountable. My plan is to include numbers for the first five in each monthly update and then a small paragraph on the last two if appropriate.
In January we didn’t bring many new items into the house. My husband found a few pieces of clothing and we’ve bought books for my son. We sent out two boxes and a big bag of stuff in January. The setting up of my craft space is still in the get stuff out of the way phase. I need to target the study specifically for decluttering.
Have you made any progress on your New Years Resolutions? Any great decluttering tips that might help me sort out that craft space?
In January a friend and I started a small critique group. We were aiming for a group of four-five. We started with four, had five for a few minutes, and are currently at three members.
The first few months of critiquing were hard. Getting a critique was hard because you never knew what kind of comments you would get. Giving a critique was hard because you weren’t sure what you were saying was well phrased or helpful. Over time giving and getting critiques has gotten easier. I discovered that if I submitted something fairly new, I wasn’t attached to it. When you aren’t attached hearing that an entire section is crap isn’t a big deal.
These days the ups and down of critiquing come from finding the time.
The few days before the submission deadline are hard. Deciding what I want to share with other people is difficult, and sometimes finding the time to do an editing pass or two on the selected section feels impossible.
Then the few days before the critique meeting itself are filled with reading and rereading the submissions for the month. Sometimes finding the words to say how well or poorly something works is hard. Many months I find myself thinking that critiquing is too hard, and I’m not sure I want to keep doing it. I know it helps my writing, but is it where I want to put my focus right now?
Last is the big meeting itself. I come out of a critique meeting feeling ready to work hard and excited for the future of both my own stories and those of my critique partners. The conversations we have about passages that work or don’t are very helpful regardless of if I was the one to write it or not. For a few days I know all the time I put in was worth it, and I got something amazing out of it.
For now I’m going to keep submitting and critique with my little critique group. Maybe there will come a time when I need to put my focus and time somewhere else, but for now I’ll push through the submission and reviewing to get to the good stuff.
Do you have a critique group? Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it?
Our critique group isn’t even a year old yet, and I can’t begin to count the number of things I’ve learned. The piece that continues to amaze me is how much I learn by reading the work of the other group members. Our abilities and styles vary, but I gain valuable insight every time I read through their work.
Having others read through your work with the specific intent of telling you what you are doing wrong is hard. I don’t know that it will ever get easy, but now that I know the benefits it isn’t terrifying.
I’ve discovered that I have an easier time getting comments on newer work. Especially if the piece is something I’m playing around with to work on improving my writing as a skill, not because I want to polish the actual piece. I guess it makes sense that I’m less attached to the words and scenes of something I’ve only just started working on.
Are you part of a critique group? What makes submitting easier for you?
Earlier this month I decided that I needed to pick a writing project and stick with it for the next two months until NaNoWriMo starts. I began rereading bits and pieces of my longest projects. I read a bit of my Murder Mystery and my MG Sci Fi, but they didn’t quite hit the spot. I still love them, they just aren’t what I want to be working on right now. I think the MG Sci Fi needs a bit more research, and the Murder Mystery needs a bit more experience.
Then, a few days ago, I started rereading bits of a YA Urban Fantasy I’d written for NaNo one year. It’s a fairly original concept, and I’ve always known how it would end. The story is interesting, I enjoy the characters, I already have names for everyone, and could easily spend some time expanding the characters (a weakness I’ve mentioned before).
Most importantly though, I’m excited to start working on it again. I can’t wait to dive into edits and start polishing things up. I can’t wait to write the last bit of the middle to match it up to the end. I’m going to let myself skip the beginning for now and work through the middle of the project first. I know how the story starts, I think, but I need time before I try and rewrite it.
The best part about settling on a project is that I should be able to submit to my critique group for the next two months. I’d been submitting only every second month for various reasons, but with my focus on a single project I can submit for the next two months in a row.
What project are you working on right now? Are you writing, editing, or both?
On Monday I’ll post a full tally for my July goals, but today I want to focus on how I did on Camp NaNoWriMo.
I surprised myself. I wasn’t too worried about finishing (my goal was just over 10k). The surprised was how many words I ended up writing in July. I finished my NaNo goal on July 30th with 30 words to spare. But that wasn’t my only project for the month. On the 16th I was hit with a sudden, all consuming, NEED to work on a fanfic I hadn’t thought about in over five years.
I was on track for NaNo, so I decided what the heck. With half my nano words written I only needed three regular nano days to finish. Nothing to worry about, so I started writing… and writing … and writing. Over five days I wrote 20k on the fanfic project! It was fun and carefree writing, which in my opinion is the most freeing. This isn’t a story I’m likely to share with anyone. It won’t go to my critique group, and I won’t share it with family or friends. It was a story I wrote for myself. That let me take the long road, and several detours. In the end I got when I needed to be, but the journey was wonderful and far from a straight line.
Here is my word chart for the month. The blue was my NaNo project. It actually has a fairly consistent writing pattern through the month. A few days a week I wrote between 500-1500 words. It looks how I expected knowing what the rest of my month was like. The red is the unexpected project that took over my writing for the middle of the month. One day I wrote over 6000 words. It is my first >6k day in over a year I think. Overall I’m very happy with how camp went, and even more pleased that I found pleasure in writing for the first time in a while.
Did you participate in camp? Did you meet your goal?
Over six months ago I started a small critique group with a friend. We started with four members, briefly went down to three, and are back up to four. Overall things have been going well, and I’ve learned a lot both from reading and submitting.
Submitting work to the group was hard the first month. It hasn’t gotten any easier. I think the part that I’m struggling with for submitting is how much I’m learning from each meeting, but I can’t manage to put any of it into practice. It’s great to know what I’m doing wrong, but frustrating that it isn’t getting any better.
It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve managed a bit of sewing, but mostly at the end of my day I’m brain tired. I’m not physically tired, but I can’t think well enough to attempt something as thought provoking as writing. I also can’t exercise much because of a minor ankle injury. Overall I spent a lot more time than I should sitting on a couch watching TV and reading to my son.
With summer here my stress level might go down, but life continues. I still have to work, and I’ll have even less time to myself than I do during the school year. More sunlight, means more vitamin D, but it also means forcing sunscreen onto myself and the kid. It also means all the work keeping him reading falls to me.
Does the rest of your life often get in the way of your best writing intentions?
I’m sure for many of you summer has already arrived. Summer, where I live, is only two months. We are just starting to see some warm weather now. Summer hasn’t truly arrived yet, but we are getting warm days between the rainy ones.
With the nice weather arriving, I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish this summer. My schedule is about to change again as my son goes from school to summer mornings spent with my mother (afternoons with me). He and I have plans to focus on reading this summer. Nothing too crazy, just 30 minutes a day split between writing, spelling, and reading.
I’ve been using the PM readers lately and really like them. My son already has a grasp on phonics, but with so many words not following the predicted pattern, he struggles. With the PM readers I’m able to look ahead to the next level and start his spelling practice with the words he is going to see. He is enjoying reading again, he is focused on reading, and he is improving at a rate I didn’t dare hope for.
With his focus on reading, I’m even more motivated to write. I am going to split my time this summer on my MG Sci Fi novel and the Murder Mystery. One of the members of my critique group requested I submit something from the Murder Mystery as she knows the basic premise, but hasn’t read anything from the draft yet. The MG I’m going to work on, so I can continue reading it to my son who thinks I’m the best writer on the planet. I could use some of that praise right now.
What are you planning to read or write this summer? Will your schedule change with school out for the summer?
Getting back on track this month took longer then I expected. On the 11th, when I gave my last update, I was still four days behind. I managed a double day that night, the 12th, and the 13th. I was in great shape to catch up on the 14th. Except that isn’t what happened.
I didn’t actually manage to catch up until the 16th. Not writing on the 15th certainly didn’t help, but I had other things that needed to get done. The whole point of setting a low goal this month was that I wouldn’t have to write everyday. The story is slower going than I expected though, and writing even a thousand words often takes twice as long as it usually does during NaNoWriMo. Once I get going, I sometimes manage to zoom through an extra 500 hundred words in the blink of an eye.
On the 17th I prove that point by writing triple my one day word count. That sounds amazing right? Except that I took the next two nights off. It didn’t put me behind, but it took away that great buffer of words I had. When I started writing yesterday I was on track, but needed a solid day of writing to stay there. I manage to get a day and a half of words. If I can do that again today, I’ll be happy. It would be nice to have a bit of a buffer again.
At this point I know I can win. As long as I keep hitting the keyboard, and don’t give up, I WILL win Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s exciting since it’s my first Camp win, but I feel like I’ve worked harder for it than I have my last several NaNos even though the word count is so much lower. At this point I just need to get through the words and win, so I can figure out what I’m submitting to my critique group in far too short a time.
How is your Camp NaNoWriMo going this year? Will you be joining me in crossing that finish line?
The month started slowly… very slowly. I didn’t write my first word for Camp until the 6th. The plan was to write three times a week, but the first week of camp turned out to be very busy, and things didn’t pan out the way I expected. Between an anniversary, having some friends over, and other life craziness I was sinking fast.
On the 6th and 7th things were looking up. I wrote 2,500 words over those two days. I went from being 6 days behind to only 2. I had big plans to be completely caught up by the end of the weekend. Something that should have been easily obtained …
Then the weekend hit. Saturday afternoon I picked my mother up from the airport. That night I had a great night out with my critique group. We barely talked about writing, but had a great time. Well worth the missed words. Last night I had plans with the husband. I tried to write during the day, but my son was extra clingy and wanted to spend time as a family. My dreams of being caught up by last night were dashed.
I’m 2,500 words behind where I should be when I go to bed tonight. Lucky for me Monday is a writing night. I don’t plan to get caught up all in one shot, but I should be able to write 1,500 words without too much trouble as long as I log the butt in chair time. At this point I’m confident I can meet my camp nanowrimo goal by the end of the month. The faster I get caught up the better, but if I don’t fall any further behind I’ll make it.
How is your writing going this month? If you’re doing camp NaNo, are you behind?