Sunday, July 09, 2006

Critique groups

What's so great about a critique group you ask?

For some, a critique group is the worst thing possible.
Since writing is a lonely business some feel having
their work judged by anyone until they, the author,
are completely satisfied, is next to, or maybe worse
than having a tooth pulled - without anesthesia.

Not for me!

Having someone else, someone not as close to the work
take a look, means a new perspective. Maybe what
I wrote implies the wrong idea, or I got so carried
away with the characters' conversation, forgetting
those tag lines, (he said, she said) that the reader
might not be able to figure out who is speaking. A good
critique partner will usually pick up on it. There's
also character position or location. My character might
be sitting through the first part of the dialogue and
the second character sees him standing in a doorway. Little
mistakes that can throw the reader out of your story
are the things a good critique partner can detail.

Of course, there are those times when motivation, or
conflict, aren't strong enough or perhaps clear enough.
Maybe I've painted my character as someone who doesn't seem
to care and I suddenly have him/her caring too much. Again,
critique partners can often see what you can't.

There's also a problem with being a story plotter, knowing
what each chapter should contain and having already written
it down. You, the writer, know what's going to happen.
If you aren't careful you may leave out an important detail.
You know what's going to happen, the character knows, but
the reader doesn't and what you have written in a following
chapter may not make a bit of sense. I know. I've been
guilty of doing just that on occasion. But, lucky for me,
I've always had excellent critique partners.

I firmly believe that even if I write a hundred books, I
will still need a good critique group. Maybe if I wrote from
the seat of my pants, never knowing what was going to happen
next in the novel, I could get by without having someone look
at my story.

I'll never know. I can't write a word until I have an outline
of the book written on a piece of paper. And yes I do the outline
on a piece of paper using a sharp pencil - with a good eraser.
That doesn't mean my story won't change, the character don't
develop, that they stay as I've first plotted them. That's why
the outline's in pencil, so I can erase. In fact, my characters
are always surprising me, doing something I hadn't planned or plotted.
But, that's for another time.

For me, a critique partner, or even better, a critique group of
two or three other writers, is as essential as the paper on which
I plot. My thanks to all of you who have read and critiqued my work.
You've made me a much better writer.

Allison Knight
"Simon's Brides" available now from Wings Press, Inc.
Visit my web page to find out What else is New!


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