Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Value of Critique Groups

Today I want to talk about the best two parts of my weekend-- the PEG Live Critique Workshop and The Lorax. Specifically that everyone needs to see that movie, and all writers should participate in some kind of critique group.

So this Saturday I went to a Critique Workshop. It was in the American Fork Library, hosted by Precision Editing Group. Otherwise known as the awesome supergroup of the following ladies:  (left to right) Luann Staheli, Heather Moore,  Julie Wright, Annette Lyon, Josi Kilpack
PEG senior editors

I'm not gonna lie. I had a little bit of a fan geek moment when put in the same room as the superauthors. They are all beautiful talented amazing women and award winning authors. Basically they're what I want to be when I grow up. (although I'm pretty sure a few of them are younger than me)

There were about 20 or so of us students. I had no idea what to expect. I had brought the first two chapters of my fiction work in progress. (more details to come) I wasn't sure what other kinds of writers would be there. Imagine my surprise to come across M.L. Forman. He's the author of one of my fave new series Adventurers Wanted. I geeked out again. My brain and tongue froze and I'm sure I said something really stupid. He was there as a student. Not an instructor. He sells like a gagillion books and he needs help too?
Talk about humbling.

And then the red pen comes out. Having been a musician first, I have had my fair share of constructive criticism. I'll give you a hint, the more you get ... doesn't get easier.  It's still heart palpitating nerves and chattering teeth for me.  Getting peer reviews and feedback can be scary. You're vulnerable. Here you are, handing over some precious piece of your soul over to someone else to literally rip apart.  What if they think I suck? What if they don't like me? What if they take one look at what I've written and secretly scoff and wonder how on earth I managed to get published?

This is where the other part of the weekend comes it: The Lorax. Great movie. It loved it. I love one line in particular and want to share it because it applies perfectly.

   "It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become."

If we never allow our manuscripts to be deconstructed a bit, they will remain as seeds -- never growing to their full potential.  I can take each slash of red pen, bleeding on my white paper, as an injury or mark against my abilities as a writer. Or I can see each stroke as proof that my book can become even stronger and better than I ever thought it could be.

Yes, it can be scary. It might sound better to tuck your life's work in a drawer so it will never have to face the harsh light of day. Heck I feel that way about my kids sometimes. But in both cases, without the light, there is no opportunity for growth. 

 So find a lorax, or a group you can share with. Form a critique group or see if you can join one already in progress. Talk to your writer buds on Facebook. Do it by email if no one lives close to you. But don't keep your writing to yourself because of fear that it's not perfect as it is. Grab insight from others so you can catch a glimpse of what it can become.


  1. Yep, it's official, you rock!

    Your new writing buddy,

  2. So many good points here, but I do have to make one of my own... I have not sold a gagillion books, but I am working on it.
    The critiques always hurt, and if they don't that means one of two things. You don't care enough about your work, or the people reading it aren't doing their jobs. Nobody writes a perfect story the first time it hits paper, nobody. We are all just writers until we share what we have written, then we start to become authors.

  3. This is exactly what I needed to read as I wade through some very critical edits from my editor. Thank you!

  4. Your chapter was awesome! And we weren't that critical. I guess hitting you over the head with your manuscript was a little much. But still...

  5. @ T.J Not necessarily referring just to you guys. More recieving critiques in general. And my head is still sore... jk

  6. Hey, your chapters had me flat out laughing!
    And? I brought tissues with me just in case the criticism was too harsh. Because I'd never let anyone read my stuff before.