HALLIE: Authors depend on other writers to critique their work. Some of us belong to a writers group and swear by then; others not so much.
I was lucky with my first writing critique group, a mixed group that included a travel writer, a memoir writer, a novelist, and a short story writer. They were all terrific readers and gave the kind of supportive feedback that helped me get my first books published. Later, I moved into a writing group of published mystery writers and got a different level of feedback that helped take my writing to a new level.
Becky Levine has just published a brand new book, a most practical guide to forming and getting the most out of a writing group, The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide.
Becky, welcome to Jungle Red! Why do you think some authors are wary of writing groups?
BECKY: You hear so many horror stories about too harsh criticism or being told that you shouldn’t be writing. I also think some people are afraid to critique; they think they’re not qualified. I say, step out there and start learning. Hopefully, my book will tell people how they can do this.
HALLIE: How can you tell if you’re in a toxic group?
BECKY: If you’re consistently feeling so drained that you can’t go home and write when you leave the critique group, then it’s probably not a good place. Any group that leaves you feeling tired or angry or frustrated and that keeps you from writing is the wrong group. Often, you and your partners can fix the problem, and it’s worth trying. There’s a whole section in the book about troubleshooting group dynamics.
HALLIE: How to find the right group?
BECKY: First think about your goals. That will help you decide whether to join:
- a mixed group or writers working at the same level and in the same genre as you
- an online or in-person group
- a group that meets frequently enough to meet your needs
You can find other writers at local writing classes, regional meetings of writers’ groups, bookstores, and libraries. If you find an existing group, go to a few meetings before you commit. If you’re feeling intimidated or bored or frustrated or aren’t interested in what others are writing then maybe it’s time to start looking for a different group.
HALLIE: How can you tell if the advice you’re getting is good or not?
BECKY: One thing to look at is quantity. If two or three people tell you the same thing, then you’d better look closely at what they’re saying. That’s the advantage of a group rather than back and forth with one person. Sometimes, even if it’s the right thing to change, we’re resistant. That gut “I don’t like this” feeling may be just the change you need to consider. If you’re confused, you can talk to that critiquer or bring it up at next meeting and brainstorm around the problem.
HALLIE: How big should a group be?
BECKY: I like 4 to 6. Of course it depends on how much writing you’re turning in, but I get very uncomfortable with large groups - it’s too much work, and it can take away from your own writing time.
HALLIE: Your book is full of wonderful tools. There’s an excellent tools for critiquing fiction and another for critiquing nonfiction.
BECKY: Those worksheets and lots of other examples from the book are online at Writers Digest. Go to http://www.writersdigest.com/article/critique-survival-guide and download free worksheets and excerpts.
HALLIE: Thanks, Becky! Now here’s the Jungle Red quiz...
Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?
BECKY: Miss M
Sex or Violence
Pizza or chocolate?
Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan?
BECKY: Pierce Brosnan
Facebook or MySpace?
Katharine Hepburn or Audrey Hepburn?
Your favorite non-mystery book?
BECKY: The Secret Garden
Favorite book as a kid?
BECKY: The Secret Garden :)
Making dinner or making reservations?
BECKY: Making reservations
And now, the Jungle Red Big Lie. Tell us four things about you that no one knows. Only three can be true. We'll guess which one is false!
My first job was selling Jordache jeans to eight-year-olds.
I rode in a helicopter for my 21st birthday.
My dream car is a 1967 Jaguar XKE, British Racing Green.
I had an allergic reaction to my cellphone.
Becky will be checking in today so please, join in the discussion and tell us what you think about writing groups. Share your own experiences and one of you will win a copy of THE WRITER & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE - winner will be announced tomorrow so check back for the Big Lie.