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!

1 comment:

  1. Although, I am fairly new to the writers group, I have to ditto your comments because even though I have not encountered a person like you describe in our group setting, I can well imagine.

    There is a difference between a overly large ego and being filled with confidence. I think that at first blush it is hard to tell the difference. With time and exposure, the large ego rears its ugly head or the confident person emerges.

    I suppose it could be argued that they go hand-in-hand where the ego and the confidence coincide. Perhaps, that is true, but I think not. I think they exist like the right and left arm; a part of the whole but doing their own thing and come together occasionally to collaborate. The ego tends to be fragile, easily offended and hurt. It resists criticism which in this group setting comes in the form of critique. Confidence on the other hand is tough and resilient, where critique is considered against an existing base of knowledge and experiences and acted upon accordingly.

    New aspiring writers have a low level of confidence, not a large ego. That takes me to why write if we are not confident. I for one, like to express my thoughts and feelings in print. It may be for myself, solely (which is actually rare) or for the convincing of others to my point of view or to be thought provoking by providing an interesting piece that someone would like to read.

    If as a writer we want to provide work for people to read. Then I think that we have to be respectful of the audience. We, over time, have a responsibility to write in such a manner as not to put off the reader. Foremost, this comes in the form of good construction of the written word. Then on to content; to present interesting material that draws in the reader and builds on the argument or plot, if you will.

    I think that there are very few of us that are looking for a place in history like Poe or Hemingway to be read, studied and remembered for all the rest of time. I, for one, would like to spin a yarn that a reader would enjoy as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would feel successful if my book was in the bottom of the barrel at Goodwill for Twenty-five cents. Perhaps, the best validation of our writing is if someone gives us some money for it, from time to time, and we transition from armature to professional.

    Already, in the few sessions I've attended the Kitsap's Writers Group I like to think that my writing has grown and/or matured. Insights given are spot-on. The time and effort put into the depth of the critiques I have received is not to be under appreciated. In times past I have had a series of ephinimies that brought me to the realization that I am flawed. I don't always have the right answers to any given topic regardless of how passionate I am about it. I think disjointedly and truncate my writing as though I'm doing an "Operators Manuel" rather than a robust descriptive piece with depth and emotion. The aggravating thing is I can't see it until it is pointed out to me by the group. Then yippee… I can fix that.

    As I read posts by published authors, I smile when they comment about a discussion or debate they've had with their critique group on, say, Point-of-view, or Tense or whatever. I agree fully with Roland that a group is important; birds of a feather do flock together and everyone who writes would write better when swimming in the pool with other writers.