few resources beat being a member of a good critique group
Above almost anything else, I recommend that a writer have a few crit partners that look over their manuscripts. I’ve heard some few writers say they have no one who looks over their stories until it’s in their agent’s hands, but for the most part, every writer needs someone to give feedback, help look for typos, and keep one on target. I have one ‘writing partner,’ and she’s my lifeline. We encourage each other daily as we each write our own stories. My critique groups (I belong to two) are invaluable – I don’t know what I’d do without them.
I’m not knowledgeable about where to find a critique group, but I can tell you what to look for. Whether online or meeting locally, the group should be friendly, with the attitude of benefiting one another. Put downs are no help to a writer. Neither are pat praises without any constructive critical feedback. If you find a crit group and the responses to your stories are “Wow, this is great!” and that’s it – no suggestions for improvement or at least marking typos or errors, or (as one writer shared with me): “w00t! u r a grate writer!!! This r0x0r!!!” I would suggest finding another group.
No matter how well you write, you will have problems that need to be pointed out. Develop a thick skin. When you receive your manuscript dripping red ink like blood, tackle the critiques with an open mind. You might receive conflicting critiques from your partners – if you do, set them aside, and let the ideas simmer in your head. Go over whether you think they have merit and ‘click’ in your gut. Then tackle the story.
(And I would like to thank my writing partner, Shannon McNear, for critiquing not only my stories but the articles for this column as well.)
originally published in The Sword Review 2006-03-31