Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Critique Groups: A Slice of Life

   I have been part of the same critique group for several years now, and while the core members have stayed fairly consistent, the number of people who come and go is amazing. It's fascinating to me how such a small group can reflect society as a whole so well. We've had folks from all over the world, different religious beliefs, young and old, male and female, and rich or poor.
   Unfortunately, as in any group of people, sometimes you experience personality conflicts or extreme differences of opinion. Ofttimes, those can be worked out, but when someone shows up with an ego or attitude a mile wide, you just have to make it clear they don't fit in this group.
   Sometimes I have to smile at the new writers who come to our group, obviously having just read a 'Rules for Writing' book and are ready to fix all our writing problems. If they are willing to stick around after the shock of discovering their 'rules' are only guidelines, we will try and gently steer them in the right direction to develop their own voice while remaining aware of the guidelines. Other times they are so offended by our total disregard for the sanctity of 'The Rules', they never come back.
   I just shake my head at the ones who show up with their fancy business cards and bookmarks with pictures of all the books they have published without any help from anyone. The problem was always the fact that none of their books were selling. I honestly don't know if they were looking for critique or hoping to impress us and generate some sales. Every time we would critique what they had submitted, and pointed out the areas that could be improved, you could tell they were upset by the criticism and never returned.
   Not all critique groups are created equal, and are only as good as the people who make up the core of the group. As with anything in life, you only get out of it what you are willing to put in. Fortunately, I feel that we have a solid and diverse core that has kept this group going for a long time and will continue to do so.
   I can't stress enough how important this group has been in the development of my writing. I feel a good critique group is an essential part of your writing process and would be a benefit to you to join one. As I've told others, if you can't find a group that fits you, start your own and you will draw other like minded people to you.
   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Silver Lining

   As a writer, I understand not everyone is going to enjoy what I write, and the possibility of a negative review is always there. Fortunately, other than the rare comment from someone that says, "This book is garbage", if a reader feels compelled to write a review they will include what they enjoyed along with what they disliked. The ability to accept the small bits of praise for what they are, and to learn from what didn't appeal to the reader is what's important.
   I recently had someone read my first book and post an honest review on their blog. It was an excellent review even though the story didn't work for them. Honestly, I never expected them to like the book because I'm familiar with their preferences and they are not part of my target audience. However, I was interested in what they might have to say.
   I thought it was telling that the reasons they cited for the story not working for them were exactly the same reasons given by those readers who thought the story was an enjoyable read. It's all about preconceptions and expectation. It was rewarding to me that the reviewer perceived the story exactly how I had intended. I write lighthearted, easy to read and understand fantasy that focuses on the characters and their relationships.
   I know this type of story isn't very popular right now, but I refuse to write grim-dark, or stories where the characters are constantly beaten to a pulp and then given insurmountable obstacles to succeed. At my age, I've experienced enough of that in my own life and the lives of family members. I have no desire to revisit those memories or emotions.
   Bottom line is I will continue to write the kind of story I enjoy reading knowing that some will like them and some won't.
   Thanks for reading.