Monday, January 9, 2012

Critiques & Process

The years that I have been “dry” have been the initial editing/revising years. I did not realize when I launched into this process that there is such variety in ways in which you can receive critiques.

My mother had a writers’ group when I was in elementary school, it was focused on poetry and affiliated with the Sacramento Poetry Society. I came to believe that a critique group was the natural second step for completing a novel.

So when I thought I was ready to start putting my novel into shape for submission to agents, editors and the like, I found a group to join.

The group I joined raised issues that I had not foreseen, and in the process I began to realize that critiquing and evaluating a critique could take a whole new skill set that I hadn’t anticipated. A lot of articles I had read had made the process of evaluating critiques seen so very easy.

But we as people--we are flawed and we have things we are self conscious about. I was 21 at the time and there was plenty I was self-conscious about. So it took no time for me to plunge into a reactionary rewrite.

Those are bad. Very bad. They take you into the territory set up as “good” by your group, oftentimes, and away from the trajectory you wished for your project to follow.

Perhaps I was then a bit too impressionable, but you never know these things until plunge on in.

One advantage that I received from that first group was my first 2 conventions. At Baycon 2005, I had the opportunity to meet other writers and I learned that some authors used Alpha and Beta Readers instead of critique groups. This was my first introduction to the idea that there are about as many ways to have your work reviewed and critiqued as there are processes by which writers produce books.

In a roundabout way, I suppose, I have spent the last 5-6 years trying to find what my method was. Have you found what works best for you? where do you receive the best critiques for your fiction?


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