TRAVEL HERE: DFW WRITERS’ CONFERENCE – CRITIQUE GROUPS
I started the second day of DFWcon with a panel discussion about Critique Groups, one of the necessities of writing.
My Experience with Critique Groups
Truth be told, if I had a critique group every day I’d probably get more writing done. On a critique group day I can ignore all the other things that usually demand my attention and focus on polishing my pages. I’ve been known to come home from a group and cry my heart out after a stinging critique, but after I get up off the floor and dust myself off, I always realize I needed it.
I belong to DFW Writers’ Workshop who puts on the DFW Writers’ Conference , but during my care-giving days, I just couldn’t get there. They go until ten o’clock on Wednesday nights smack dab in the middle of the Mid-Cities. I’d be all wound up after the critiques and the drive, so I couldn’t get to sleep early enough to do a good job of care-giving the next day. I’ve promised myself to get back over there and I plan to, I’m just a little intimidated. Those guys don’t mince words, but the best thing is that they meet weekly, giving you more opportunities to read.
The critique group I usually attend is Dallas Christian Writers’ Guild. It’s not just for writers of Christian literature, but for writers of all stripes who are Christians. They’re every bit as critical as the DFW Writers’ Workshop, it just seems to come out a little more gently. Problem is, the Guild only meets once a month and I need a kick in the pants more frequently than that. They have an offshoot in Denton that I go to, but since I’m moving to Heath soon, I’ll be checking out Rockwall Christian Writers’ Group. But I know I need more.
The workshops only allow you to read a few pages at a time and it’s easy to sound good for short bites. It’s when those bits are strung together that the flaws really show. And then there’s the whole waiting until it’s critique group day. I’d heard of online critique groups, but I wasn’t sure of how they worked. Hence, my interest in the critique group seminar.
The Care and Feeding of Critique Groups by Heather Webb and Friends
One of the first things I learned in the seminar was that I’d somehow wandered into the cream of the crop when it came to critique groups. At DFW, Dallas and Denton, things are very structured. I had no idea the messes some groups got themselves into. But Heather and her critique group are an online group and that’s what I was interested in.
I went in thinking the biggest hurdle was finding online buddies to critique with and now that I’m home, it’s still the most challenging aspect of the situation. They said conferences were the best place to find writing partners, but I didn’t find my dream date there. The next thing to try was Googling and there are supposed to be thousands of possibilities out there in various forums and groups. There’s enough out there that you’ll be able to find what you need, but so many it will be a little scary and intimidating.
Good searches are: “writing groups” and “writing center”. They mentioned Savvy Authors and Scribophile. I think the best source for me is Kristen Lamb’s WANA groups, but I’m still a little bit chicken. I’m wishing my next email was from some wonderful critique group wanting me to join. (It could happen!) If you can’t find an already formed group, then you can gather up the new friends you find from conferences and searches to form your own group. The best number for an online group is between 3-10 people.
Someone has to be in charge and you have to find a format. Some possible formats are email, yahoo groups and facebook secret groups. Set up the rules and let the person in charge handle all the tough stuff. Figure out the vetting process for new members, when you’re going to meet and set the rules for reading work. And play fair. If you want people to read and critique your work, then you’re going to need to do the same for them.
If someone needs to be fired, Heather recommended probation first. It’s so hard to find the right people, you don’t want to have to repeat the process too frequently. If you’re a writer, you may not have thought of this – one critique group is not enough. Hooking up with the DFW, Dallas and Denton was a good way to start, but I do need to get an online group.
When your manuscript does become a book, Heather and her panel pointed out that your critique groups are a great source of cross-promoting. The final bit of advice we got in the seminar was to go see the movie Authors Anonymous. Seems like that was particularly good advice.