Friday, April 30, 2010

Critique Group? Check!

I have been busy over the last few days feverishly working for the League of Utah Writers. (Doesn't the organization sound like a group of super heros who happen to write? Unfortunately, this cool image is ruined when I envision myself in spandex and tights. So not a flattering wardrobe choice!) Sorry. Back to the topic. I am the chairperson responsible for the LUW annual Spring Workshop. This is going to be an awesome event, and I have no idea how I was able to land so many incredible authors to present at this function. If you know any of these people, please don't tell them how nerdy I am!

Here is our lineup:

Clint Johnson (Green Dragon Codex) - Clint is teaching an intense two hour block. It's called The Triple Threat and involves extensive writing exercises within small, separate groups.

Dan Wells (I Am Not A Serial Killer) - Oh, Dan's book is brilliantly creepy! It is in its 5th printing in Germany and has just been released in the states. We are lucky to have Dan join us. His Seven Points writing presentation is amazing, smart, and so darn funny.

Elana Johnson of Author Elana Johnson blogdom and Querytracker fame is coming to instruct us on the art of the query letter. Undeniably, Elana is the queen of the queries. I've heard great things about her class, and I can't wait to attend this one!

Ben Behunin (Discovering Isaac: The Beloved Potter of Niederbipp) is sharing his successful journey to publication. Ben's books have the most amazing, intricate graphics, and he is bringing Bert Compton, graphic artist extraordinaire, to tell us the story behind his work on those books.

Angela Eschler and Melissa Dalton of Eschler Editing are also taking Q&A on the publishing industry and marketing strategy.

What a day! And since I'm in charge and I like bakeries, the patisserie box lunches look delectable. If you live in Utah and are interested in attending, let me know. We still have twelve seats available.

Okay. Enough shameless advertising and self-promotion!

I want to know about your critique groups. How many are in your group and how often do you meet? Where do you gather? How do you conduct your meetings? Do you do writing exercises? Do you take turns leading a discussion? Do you read excerpts from your WIP? Are you productive?

Man, that's a whole lotta questions. But this inquiring mind wants to know! My critique group is awesome. There are five of us who live within a thirty mile radius of each other, and we meet at the Barnes and Noble in a nearby town. We love our B&N. We love the books and magazines, of course. Then there's also the Starbuck's aroma and the chocolate chip scones and the vanilla bean/caramel ice cream drinks. Mmmm, being in our critique group is wicked good. We go over our WIPs, discuss the problems in our stories and find their solutions together, and then we talk. We excel at this last part. It is always a fun time on critique group night.

Perhaps a little too much fun. At one point, a critique group member made a slightly racy comment about steamy phone conversations with her husband, and the man at the next cafe table, who had been leaning our way and listening, dropped his book on the floor. He had given up reading long before to eavesdrop.

Actually, the cafe is often distracting so we usually sit on fold out chairs in the corner by the foreign language section. How do you stay on task, buddies? Do you set goals together? Do you read from writing books? How do you critique group?

Hmmm. Maybe we could form a League of Blogging Critique Groups . . . As long as I can wear a mask and a cape, I'm in! What do you think?


  1. Roxy, my critique group is almost completely done online ... we're scattered from coast to coast and above the Canadian border. It's a loose association of, "Hey, can you take a look at this, or is the Deadline Dragon breathing down your neck?"

    We send excerpts or chapters or whole books (depending on how we write, as all of my CPs write differently) and the recipients do line edits and send them back.

    We also are known to send desperation e-mails like, "Hey, my agent/editor needs better titles STAT! HELP!!" or "Major plot hole developed! RESCUE ME!!!"

    I've been a member of a Yahoo Group e-mail group that critted this way in the past, but so many of us at the time were either swamped or busy or whatever. So now it's a loose confederation.

    Plus, depending on the project, I pick beta readers to help me read through it. And my sister is ALWAYS a beta reader, because, as big sisters will, she is always ready to highlight any warts I (oops, I meant my WIP) may have.

  2. Roxy, sounds like the conference has a great line up. I'm jealous I don't live anywhere near Utah.

    As for critique groups, I'm not currently in one, but I'm on the look out for beta readers to exchange manuscripts with.

  3. Loving the superhero image! Haha...My superpower would be editing with my laser vision. How fun would that be?

    Envious you get to hear her blog!

  4. I have a bunch of betas but we don't work as a group. Kinda like a web of betas out there. Call me SpiderBetaWoman or something like that!

  5. That is a catchy name for a league of super powered writers. Sounds like an awesome time, but man a huge job for you!!

    Your critique group sounds like a blast! I have a group of online girls that is just awesome, but it would be so cool if we could sit and get together somewhere. And me and my friend who lives close to me, meet at our B & N too!! Don't know how productive we are, it's mostly just motivating us to keep writing!

  6. I have critique partners that all critique each other's work, but we live so far away, we've never met. I wish I could meet them, though!

  7. I've got my Wonder Woman T-shirt all ready to go!! I've even ironed it. And I hate ironing! But if it gets me to see you in super tights and super underpants outside of tights well it's worth it!


    Good luck with your Workshop - you've got a great line up there - but your patisserie lunch box sounds sublime! I wish I could hop in my invisible plane and go now!

    And all the best with it and well done for putting it all together!!!

    My rather fab writing course class are a kind of critique group I think! We do read and comment on each other's assignments and they all help and are all super nice. I think it's feeling safe and comfortable enough to also be a little critical so long as it is also constructive. My
    "group" is online though but we do have virtual cafe... serves virtually everything...


    Take care

  8. Oh my days of spandex are loooong over. I need some serious treadmill time before I can sport any kind of superhero garb.

    Have fun with your writing League! Sounds fun. I wish I was close enough. I'm thinking NJ is a pretty long drive. ;)

    Happy Weekend,

  9. Wow, what a great line-up!

    My critique group consists of about 5 people (sometimes six). We meet each week in a pub... but we do get work done. I swear!

    Have a good weekend.

  10. That lineup is awesome! Too bad I'm so far away.

    I tried one critique group, but it didn't work. It seems I'm better at one on one exchanges. There's a possibility I may join one in my town. I'm also supposed to join one online.

    One-on-one is good because you can go faster than with a group. There's less work involved too. The downside, less feedback and not as many potential friends.

  11. I want to come! Is there still room for me?

  12. Wow...seems like you have been busy!

    I'm not in a critique group anymore. Used to be, but it just wasn't working out for me. Now I have a beta reader and I think I'll just stick with that. 1 to 1 is better for me.


  13. When I was in college taking creative writing courses, everyone would read their bit out loud, and then we'd commence to commenting. It helped, sometimes, to clarify an area that may have been vague--something like that, just to hear it in the author's own voice.

    I also use Skype, Google Groups and Google Documents.

  14. Very busy stuff. Sounds like fun though :)

  15. I belong to a writing meetup group and we meet three times a month at different locations in our area. Most times no one reads but we read and critique each other's work and most people have WIP manuscripts.

  16. I'm too much of a baby to be in a critique group. I'll take what an editor has to say but as for readership, I figure if they like it great, if not, at least my editor and I did.

  17. I just started with a new critique group of four women last month. First meeting was a great experience. I'm hoping the next will be too. What a great lineup! Wish I lived closer so I could attend.

  18. I heard about Dan Wells book from somewhere and it does indeed sound creepy. And you lucky duck, get to spend time with Elana! Have a great time.

  19. Apart from my two non-writer beta readers and teen cousin, my crit partners are online. The writers league sounds great fun...and busy. Don't forget your cape. ;)

  20. I have online crit buddies, but none in the 'real' world. In fact no one outside of direct family knows I write :) Not yet!

    You have a fabulous conference lined up! Enjoy :) I'm so jealous you get to work with Elana!!

  21. I've been in a critique group for over 20 years. We meet once a week. We bring copies of our pages for everyone, then we read our pages and take turns critiquing. Over the years several of us have published. We been through a lot together, parents dying, divorce, and growing old. I don't know what I'd do without them. We're a very diverse group. Some write romance, some historical, some horror, some YA and some fantasy.

  22. I don't have an in-person group, but I do have a group of 2 betas that I exchange manuscripts with online. We just started out, but so far it's great, and I have a good feeling about our group.

  23. Cynthia - On-line critique groups sound so interesting, but I wouldn't know how to go about forming one. I think it's great that you have a sister to share your work with. :)

    Crimey - I'm stoked that you like the workshop lineup! I hope it's a good day. I'd offer to beta read for you, but you might not like my genre . . . women's fiction.

    MissV - I want editing laser vision, too. Very creative super power!

    Lydia - SpiderBetaWoman! You are my hero.

    Crystal - B&N motivation is a powerful force. (Try the scones!)

    Aubrie - I'd love to meet my online friends as well. Yourself included!

    Old Kitty - Daniel Craig loves a woman who irons her Wonder Woman t-shirt! Good job you. Your writing course does sound fab. Virtual cafes are much better for the waistline. I should stick with the virtual scones and leave the real ones alone. :)

    Lola - I don't think I ever had spandex days! Even in my prime, when I wore a size 4 and worked out 2 hours a day. Spandex + Roxy is like matter plus antimatter and = apocalyptic end of world! Hey, I need your address so I can send you your prize from my contest.

    Talli - Meeting in a pub for critique group sounds so much more fun than meeting in a book store. I wanna be in your CG.

    Theresa - Groups aren't for everyone, and exchanging with one person does usually yield quicker results. But I like the thought of you going out with the girls and chatting about your book over a nice dessert. Sorry if I'm projecting my preferences, but you are awesome!

    Angie - There is totally room for you at the workshop. Let me know if you want to attend.

    JustineDell - Thank goodness for beta readers. I'm glad you found a great match.

    Summer - I am technology challenged and completely out of the loop. Tell me about skype . . .

    Thanks for dropping by FantasticFiction! I need to return the visit and check out your cool blog.

    Myne - Your critique group sounds productive. I've been wanting to read your posts. I'm coming over to your blog, too. Thanks for leaving such great comments!

    Michaele - Nobody's a baby who's willing to turn their work over to an editor. You're tough and brave, girl.

    Angie - I love good critique experiences! I bet your group is the bomb. Your picture is great, by the way. It makes me happy to look at it.

    Anne - It's so good to hear from you. I've missed the Piedmont Writer. I'm thinking I am pretty lucky to hear Elana teach. I'll post about what she says.

    Lindsay - A cape is a must for me. What is your writing super power?

    Jemi - I'm certain that your writing ability won't remain a secret for long.

  24. Kathi - Your group is so inspiring. I want to have writing buddies that I can experience life with. I admire you for finding those invaluable friends.

    Shelley - I'm thrilled for you. Keep your betas together and see where their suggestions take you! :)

  25. My critique group met at a Highlights Foundation Workshop. We are spread out all over the country. We communicate on line.

    It sounds like you've organized a great workshop. Have fun with it. :)

  26. Sharon - How cool that you met at a workshop!

  27. I believe they might indeed be super heros!!! The support is fab! Glad you are a part of it.

  28. Would love to see you in the mask and cape. I laughed about you needing to go to the foreign lang. section for less distractions! I eavesdrop all the time - the book is the cover. Oh, ya, and I'm just journaling over here at my own table, not jotting down great dialogue and story ideas from your crazy life that you're sharing way too loudly (I mean could you speak up). grin.

    I'm in a writing group, but we're lame-o. We are supposed to meet once a month, but haven't done so because everyone is too busy. I think it's going to fail.

    Your conference sounds lovely.

  29. Love the photo and reference to super heroes, which i think any real writer is!

    I tried to be part of a newly formed critiquing group, only to find that two of the women only knew how to talk about sci fi. Yeah, it didn't last long.

  30. I love critique groups! I belong to three in total: One monthly, Once twice monthly, and one weekly. I have a great time at all of them because each group is comprised of so many different perspectives and opinions. And as you say about your group, we have such a great time talking afterwards and joking around! I love hanging around writers because even if I don't have anything to read that night I still love the support system a critique group provides.