The secret to a critique group

Joe’s Post #80

We had a chance today to go over our stories with the 5/5/5 group, today. Everyone brought their ideas. Everyone shared their thoughts, suggestions and advice. Each story was better off for the grilling. Way better.

It’s what makes our group work.

evolvedNot that we have great insights, probably a lot of writers do, but the real success is that we evolve.

I think that’s the toughest thing for a writer’s group to achieve. Longevity. Too often, they fade away. Sometimes they explode. Sometimes the one person, the driving force, leaves and the rest lose interest.

heartbreak ridgeBut we’ve survived because we adapt. We overcome. We improvise. (To quote Clint Eastwood from Heartbreak Ridge.) So, I wanna say we’re kinda like marines, but, you know, with less tattoos and missing limbs.

When we first got together, we looked at 30 page submissions. In all honesty, I learned as much from doing the critiques as receiving them.

Then we came up with the brilliant idea of 5 writers getting 5 books written in 5 months. Then added to that fun by critiquing the books. The whole books.

Now, it’s time for us to morph again.

Time to shake it up.

We’re all ready to start new novels. But if we do 30 pages, again, it could take 2-3 years for us to finish one.

Should we try another book in 5 months? We proved we could do it, but was it the best book we could write?

We could do more work on the outlines, but that would also postpone the actual writing we were all so keen to get started on today.

So we evolve.

We’ve learned that deadlines work for us.

So we’ll have those.

We’ve learned that we need to meet more than once every 4 months.

So we’ll meet more often.

We’ve learned that our books are always better for having the others take a look at them. But we write at different paces and not everyone has time and energy to pound out one if 5 months.

So we’ll all bring writing to every meeting. We’ll all be working on our next book. But what we bring and what we want from the group will be different for each person, for how fast they are writing, for what problems they are having, for input into what’s working and what’s not.

Maybe we’ll need to know if the opening works and get the group’s input. Maybe we’ll brainstorm a sagging middle. Maybe everyone will look at me and ask, why are you writing 50 Shades of Joe? Who knows? But the writer will dictate the focus of the group.

And hey, if it doesn’t work, we’ll evolve, again.

Next time, though, I want to evolve to be taller.


Blogs written: 3 this week.

Blogs posted: 1 (the other two are lurking, waiting for me to post when you least expect it!)

Great Blogs to Check out: Janet Reid – Agent

Outlines Done: 1 Big and messy. Like me.

Queries Done: 0 (If this is 0 next week, someone kick my sorry ass.)

rabbitHoroscope: The more I work, the more money I’ll make.

Number of Teeth Removed: 4

Date For New Braces: Feb 3rd

Number of Tickets Bought for Spamalot: 2

Number of Months with the Amazing Blue-eyed Girl: 11

7 thoughts on “The secret to a critique group

  1. With all due respect, deadlines only work for some of you. Several of you have mentioned in these posts that some of the members missed a couple of major deadlines, including the 5/5 deadline. I can remember a lot of posts about how to get moving for the 5 in 5 deadline, and some amount discussion in the comments about what might work for those writers who couldn’t be motivated by a deadline. I’d suggest that the ones who need other motivation look back at some of those discussions and see if anything strikes them as a possible working method for them.

    • You’re right in one way, Bev, and I was the worst offender in the 5/5/5 deadline race. But I wouldn’t agree that I’m not motivated by deadlines. What I learned from that experience was that setting a wildly ambitious, artificial deadline for writing a whole book didn’t work for me. Maybe it was too intimidating, or maybe it seemed too much like a competition/game (a la NaNoWriMo), or maybe I wasn’t writing the right story – I don’t know for sure. But the incremental deadlines we used to follow with our monthly critiques did work, and I don’t believe I ever missed a submission. I’ve also kept up with my blog contributions faithfully (I think I missed one while away sailing).

      As you say, every writer has to figure out how to keep motivated, and after that it’s about just getting on with it. There must be many, many talented writers out there who just haven’t found their groove – that working method that will turn their writing potential into an actual, finished, publishable book.

      But sometimes you have to try and fail a few times before you find your bliss. And as Charlie Brown said, in one of my favourite quotes from anywhere, “There’s no heavier burden than a great potential.”

  2. Great summary of a great meeting Joe. I feel like we’re classmates growing up together in some kind of Do-It-Yourself Writers School where we pick our own teachers (through books, conferences and workshops), tutor each other, and mark our own papers. Maybe that sounds hokey, but it works for me. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned. I want to thank my 5/5/5 colleagues (and our loyal blog followers) for giving me encouragement, advice, and kicks-in-the-pants, as needed.

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