Thursday, June 30, 2016

That Flying Zebra Has to Go!

by Alan

Are you in a critique group? Pros? Cons?

When I first started writing fiction, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing (some people might say I still don’t. H8ers!). So I took a few workshops (at The Writer’s Center—now I teach there!). They were EXTREMELY helpful, but were limited in scope. I took the advice of my instructor and, with a couple of fellow workshoppers, formed a critique group. My very first critique group.

Best thing ever.

Because I’d been in the workshop with them, I knew what kind of critiquers they were (excellent). I also knew what kind of things they wrote (very good things), how they handled criticism of their own work (like pros), and what kind of people they were (top-notch). We worked together for a few years and I learned A TON from them.

And valuable stuff, too. It’s one thing to sit alone in your dungeon room, hour after hour, day after day, pounding that keyboard, but eventually you’ll probably want to show your masterpiece to someone else just to see if you are “on the right track” (note: you are probably not “on the right track”). That’s why, for me, having a critique group is invaluable.

I learned what worked and what didn’t. I learned about things on a line-by-line level (too many semi-colons!), and on a big picture basis (“You need to change the main character from a he to a she and move the action to Ecuador. And ditch the purple flying zebra!”). Hopefully, I was able to help my critique partners, as well.

Eventually, one of us moved, and life got in the way, and yadda yadda yadda, and we transformed from a group into a beta reader-type arrangement (we still exchanged work, but didn’t meet regularly).

A few years later, I hooked up with another group.

Best thing ever.

And after that ran its course, I joined another group.

Best thing ever.

If you can’t tell, I love being in critique groups, mostly because I love LOVE LOVE my critique partners. So knowledgeable. So generous. So supportive. I know they’ve “got my back” and would do anything to help my writing or my career. I’d do the same for them.

Writing (actually, publishing) is a brutal business, teeming with pitfalls, detours, trap doors, roundabouts, betrayals, broken promises, dashed dreams, and the equivalent of cheese-covered Brussels sprouts, so it sure helps to have friends on your side as you run the gauntlet.

Because having a terrific critique group is the best thing EVER.


Meredith Cole said...

Who told you to ditch the purple flying zebra?! It sounds like the best thing EVER to me... But so do your critique groups!

Alan Orloff said...

Well, Meredith, since you like the flying zebra, it might have to make a re-appearance. Maybe a zombie flying zebra??

Meredith Cole said...