Friday, June 10, 2011

Can You Give as Good as You Get? Part 2

The last point leads to the types of critique groups and their advantages. I’ve been in one where the members were spread across the world and only communicated online. We did month long critiques of every detail in the submitted novels. A lot of work when you had to do several novel ‘clinics’ a year in order to line up two or more critiquers for your next submission. After that I joined another online group where material was submitted piecemeal, but if you wanted to get the best critters responding you had to have made friends by critiquing regular submissions of theirs. That group was one where some people lurked in the shadows to jump out and hit the unsuspecting submitter with the aforementioned withering contempt. You had to learn who to ignore on that list.

After that I belonged to a smaller group where one submission a month was sometimes too much for the other members. There was also a problem of some not being on the same craft level as the others, and the newer writers lost heart when they saw how much they needed to catch up. That group just faded away—I suspect I was the troll under that bridge. Over the years I’ve also attended writing workshops given by experienced professionals and had my mind blown by the depth of their analysis and understanding of fiction.

My local group has many of the advantages of both the online and face to face critique groups. We submit a new chapter monthly by e-mail and critique all six of them (if all the members have had time to write that month) and return them to the group before the monthly meeting in a local library to discuss and nit pick some more. I would like to have more submissions per month, but then I’m the only one retired who can write full time. The others have full lives elsewhere, so a chapter a month is more than enough for them. When the solo reads and critiques from everyone are posted back before the meetings, one can get the individual responses first, and they are then extended by the group discussion in the library. It’s much easier to ask ‘what did you mean by that comment?’ in person than through impersonal electronic communication. Since all the other members are ladies, I get more than enough supervision to make me stay within group etiquette.

It would be interesting to hear about the forms of groups others belong to, but perhaps in the comments. I’m moving to my part three next.


Cellophane Queen said...

The one chapter a month thing would not work for me and I truly don't see how it would work for anybody. Say you have 20-25 chapters in your novel. I couldn't spend two years getting a critique.

I have some readers who read what I post quickly. I do the same for them. We all use Critique Circle in private queues. We can usually go everyone's novels in a couple of months. We're all at different stages in development, so we might be working on chapter 1 for one writer, chapter 20 on another, and some nothing at all.

Lisa Forget said...

In the critique group I'm part of, we can only submit a limit of 3.5K words, if we've already critiqued 2prior to our posting.

Sometimes that can be too much for some and not enough for others who are well ahead in their MS.

Instead of submitting parts of my MS, I've been submitting parts of short-stories or flash fiction. Things move along a little faster and I learn more by experimenting with things I can later apply to my bigger projects.

I'm always very grateful to any of the critiquers who take the time to share their thoughts.

Christopher Hoare said...

I agree, Marva, but one lives with what one has. Luckily, I had a backlog of novels in the pipeline toward release and didn't want to finish the novel I was posting while I had to promote them.

I did do a novel swap with a member of SFCanada so that gave me something to work with. When it came time to move to something else and submit the novel I'd been working on, one of the group (here in Muse) was good enough to give the ending chapters a critique.

Yes, Lisa, 3.5k isn't enough to work with for a novel. At one chapter a month we tend to forget earlier details of the stories---or muddle up the changes in rewrites, so a two month crit span would be much better.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I think the one chapter a month works because writers need to fellowship. And so much of it is giving support. It may not be ideal, but it's gone a long way to encouraging my progress.

Charlie said...

Thanks for the workshop Christopher. Very interesting. I belong to two critique groups. One is a group of four and we each sub weekly, so, I sub once a month. The other group I belong to is a very intense group of nine. We each submit up to 2500 words at least every other week and critique the other 8 subs within 10 days. You are so right that each critter brings their own positive spin to the table. I'm lucky to have a great group of peers to help me take my stories to the next level. But your comments here offer me great ammunition to take back and be a better critter to them as well.
C.K. Volnek