Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Critique Group

What new and delightful experiences I've had over the past month.  I was introduced to the A-Z Challenge; The Insecure Writer's Support Group (a gem of a find); Blogs aplenty; and after sharing glimpses of my story and receiving so much encouragement from new friends, a lot of anxiety about how to go forward now that my first novel is almost complete.  

I'd really appreciate any help I can get from the Group.  

I previously gave my very rough and incomplete draft to an English teacher to critique but, although he had a few good points which I incorporated, he has never read fantasy; doesn't like the genre and; although he's written numerous contemporary stories, none has been published.  I think he may be the wrong type of critic.

Then, there are my family members.  They read with a jaundiced eye - either positively or negatively.  After all, these people know me and I've had comments like "I don't read fantasy but I can't understand how you can write about those horrors - you're a Christian, you should write something uplifting"; "your bad guy is too bad"; "I need to teach you how to write a novel"; "I didn't read the whole thing but it's great"; "I like it very much".  So - I've decided that asking the opinion of family members is probably also not the best idea.

I should be finished the whole story within the next two or so months - there are perhaps four or five chapters to go.  Do I wait until it's complete before I ask people to critique it?  How do I find the right critics?  What kind of feedback can I expect from them?

Oh Dear!  The list goes on and on...

21 comments:

  1. I'd recommend an online critique site. You won't get all useful feedback, but you'll get enough so there'll be something you can use in there. And it's also fun having people read your stuff.

    I use critiquecircle.com (which is free), but there are others.

    mood

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    1. Thank you so much, mood. That's a great idea. I've bookmarked the site.

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  2. Yeah, the right kind of feedback is really important. Speaking for myself, family doesn't make for good feedback (unless they're also writers). And it can take some time to find someone you click with, but you'll likely find some people through blogging who share your interest in fantasy and who are looking to exchange work. I found both my critique partners through blogging, and they're wonderful. :)

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    1. :) Thanks, LG

      I'll keep my eyes and ears open.

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  3. I think modern writers are being encouraged to be too dependent on 'critiques'. Should you really change something in your work that you believe it because some reader who may not care for your genre or some other aspect of your work didn't like it?

    You might give out small sections of your work to interested persons and ask for their reactions. Not 'critiques'. It's less of an imposition than if you asked them to read a whole novel. I think that's what I might do if I can get some volunteer beta-readers. Perhaps do it chapter-by-chapter.

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    1. I agree to a large degree. It'll be really important to find someone who has a similar mindset to mine and who'll enjoy the journey on which my characters have embarked.

      Writing the story is probably the 'easiest' part.

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  4. I wish I knew how to tell you how to find critique partners. Local writing groups are a great place to find them. There are even online writing groups. I'm still recovering from my CP leaving writing and that was 5 years ago. She was the bestest.

    I'd finish the story first because nothing can bring you to a grinding halt faster than someone going "I don't get it." At least with a complete manuscript if they mention that then they find something later in the book they can say "Hm. Maybe this should be where I said that I wasn't quite getting it." I'd rather read an entire manuscript than one or two chapters. Because, as i said, it's easy to get derailed with writing and if someone is drumming their fingers impatiently that just adds to the stress of that.

    As for feedback - you can get what you ask for or you can ask for an all over readthrough. Sometimes I worry my pacing is off. Sometimes I worry I don't have conflict (okay...I always worry about that.) But maybe your strength isn't POV. I just read a book where the tense was all over the place and it frustrated me to no end. A good CP and a good beta reader and a good editor would've bagged those for you.

    But to find one, I'd search out local/online writing groups. I think there are some onlin specifically for critique partner hunts. I knew of a site years ago but no idea what/where/if it is now. Sorry.

    Good luck!

    Riann Colton

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    1. Thanks, Riann

      I think I'll keep looking for a CP amongst the Bloggers I've met and whose work is substantially similar to mine. Local groups are difficult in my part of the world. I live in South Africa and, as far as I know, we don't even have a local publisher for fantasy. :p

      With regard to grammar and spelling, I'm a bit of a fanatic. Nothing puts me off more than reading anything with errors. In my opinion, if something is worth publishing, it must be worth getting tenses, spelling and grammar correct, at the very least. I've discarded books by very well-known authors for that reason. I couldn't get into the plot for errors...

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  5. I have a WIP and will wait until after the editing stage to give it to my critique partners. But I sent off ARCs (advance review copies) from my previous book before the editing stage.

    I think for the first book its a good idea to receive critiques early as this will help make the final version much easier to write and less rewrites.

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    1. Thanks, Stephen

      My work is nearly finished (the writing thereof, in any event). I'm looking to take a few weeks' break at the coast to finish it.

      I hope that editing will only be necessary for major incongruities. I intensely dislike reading a work which is full of errors so I will try to ensure that I afford anyone who reads my work with the courtesy of correct grammar and spelling. However, because I'm so involved with what is happening with my characters, there's a good possibility that I may miss basic contextual and other errors. A new set of eyes will probably see those straight away.

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  6. Hi, visiting from IWSG. My advice would be to wait until you complete the manuscript, then go in search of a Crit Partner.

    Rachna Chhabria
    Co-host IWSG
    Rachna's Scriptorium

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    1. Thanks, Rachna

      That may be best as my work is already almost complete.

      When I started, I didn't realise that the writing would probably be the easiest part. :)

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  7. Thank you everyone for your wonderful feedback.

    When I came back online this evening I noticed that my IWSG link was to the picture and not to the site. My apologies.

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  8. For me, I needed help and I needed it fast! I was fumbling around with writing a fictional book then inspiration struck. I wanted, no needed to write a self-help book with my style of writing. I knew I needed help and decided to reach out to someone I trusted here in the blogging world with plenty o' experience. I'm so glad I did. He rocks. He has the same sense of humor I do but he has a critical eye. He's not afraid to say, "You can do better than this and we both know it." He's been with me since the inception of the book. He's seen the first draft, since that's the only one available right now - it's a WIP. If it wasn't for him, I'd be making some major bush league mistakes. I cherish having him and I hope you find someone for you too =)

    IWSG
    Elsie

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    1. I can only wish to be as lucky as you have been, Elsie. Thank you for the good wishes.

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  9. Hello Felicity, lovely to meet you!

    I'm no expert on this as I've never had beta readers myself but I believe most people find them like this- people whose blogs you follow, who you know read a lot of fantasy because they write about all the great books they're reading, who you admire because of their writing- and then you just ask them. I mean, develop a relationship first- read and comment and write them and get a little chummy but then- yeah, just ask. "Would you be interested in taking a look at my writing?"

    I'd read the other people on the IWSG list- A LOT of them are published, in the process of getting published, or in the beginning stages of looking into publishing. And the bulk of them have had beta readers. And they all like to help other writers. Thus this group, as you can see.

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    1. Hello back, Beverly

      What I've come away with from everyone's comments - all gratefully received - is that one has to find a trusted partner. I'll be sure to spend time on that aspect.

      Thanks for taking time to give me some advice. I appreciate it.

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  10. Previous commenters have done a great job on where to find beta readers. Networking with people you respect, or going through sites like Critters.org, are perfect starts. My big advice there is to never take the negative criticism to heart. You have to be able to process it rationally - is it reasonable? Is it actionable? That's all that matters.

    I just wanted to address a later question: when to show the work. Unless you have something you need knee-jerk affirmation on, it ought to be finished with at least two drafts, polished to at least a good level. If you go nuts over details, then don't stress over perfecting it, but give it at least the two passes before you give it to someone else. That way they can focus on major strengths and flaws rather than line-reading for errors.

    And good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much, John

      Thank you also for reading my excerpts and for all the incredibly important critiques and points you've made. If I get nothing else out of the A-Z (and there is really so much value in the challenge) - I will be forever grateful for your touching my life during this time. You are not only a wonderful author but a wonderful human being too. OMW - that does sound 'gushy' doesn't it? However, it's simply the truth.

      Warmest regards

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  11. congrats on finishing the challenge and welcome to the insecure writers group!
    falling for fiction is a great group that has regular "mixers" to match critters. and if you get a good feel for a fellow blogger, you can ask and offer to crit theirs in return. its hard to get started, but you will get the feel for it. we need each other, so another writer who likes fantasy would be a good choice... also, if you want feedback now, tell them where you are, but finishing a draft is better than a partial... imho
    good luck!

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    1. Thanks for the advice, Tara

      I'm going to take the next month or so off from all other activities to finish my first draft. Now that I'm over the slump and the 'writing bug' has once again bitten, it should be reasonably easy.

      I won't miss out on IWSG's monthlies though.

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