by Gina Sestak
OK, now you've got it written. What do you do with it? Do you pay some stranger mega-bucks for editing or do you beg your friends and relatives to read this, please?
Perhaps you should join a critique group.
The kind of critique groups I am discussing here are those made up of people who read and write, people who are willing and able to provide honest feedback, and to do it in a way that is neither too supportive nor too nasty.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not pretending to be an expert of critique groups. I have, however, participated in a few over the years:
Intense: This one met weekly at a private home. Every one of four to ten participants would bring a chapter -- about 10 pages -- every week. We would silently read every chapter to ourselves while chatting and eating*, then discuss each and every one -- all in about three hours time. I found this very helpful with things like flow and logic. It also had the advantage of getting through a book length manuscript in a few months, which made it easier for the participants to remember who the characters were and where the story left off last time.
* just as an aside, for some reason critique groups seem to double as eating groups. The group I presently participate in focuses on one writer each week; that writer is expected to email the work to be discussed to everybody else ahead of time, and to show up for the meeting bearing snacks.
Read aloud: Participants would read each other's work aloud to the group. If you ever want to know whether or not your sentences make sense, get someone to read them to you! This group was great for catching grammar goofs. The group would provide feedback after the reading finished, unless something was so wrong it needed an immediate comment.
Read ahead: Participants would provide a chapter or set number of pages ahead of time to the other participant. This was especially helpful for line editing and catching typos. The group members discuss the work in detail, then provide their written comments as well.
Directed/undirected. Some groups are peer-to-peer, while others are under the direction of an experienced writer/editor. I have been in both types, and have developed a slight preference for the directed kind in which the voice of practical expertise is represented.
All of these groups were helpful in one way or another with revision and editing. Perhaps most of all, though, they provided like-minded people with whom to share the writing experience.
What do you think of critique groups? Do you participate in one? Why or why not?