A while ago, Giles touched on The Art of Critique, but I'm going to expound on it a little bit in today's post. Because our critique group did an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing thing this week. Well, technically, a few months ago, but I got the news this week.
Back in March, I submitted a short story to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2014 Anthology. I started writing a story to fit the theme of Crossing Colfax entirely too late for comfort, so the entire process with fraught with self-loathing and panic. But I miraculously had enough time to send the story to my critique group twice before the due date, and that made all the difference.
Our group is a little different from most, as Giles touched on in his critique post. We don't sit silently through our critiques--we actively ask for clarification and suggestions, and that works well for us. It doesn't work for every group, and it's something we have to be careful about, but so far it's been helpful.
Our group is also interesting, because each of us has a different critiquing style. One of us is really good at tiny, nitpick details. One of us is great at big content issues. One of us is a grammar whiz. One of us has wonderful, thought-provoking questions the rest of us tend to overlook. It's a great mix, and all things that we need to look at in our pieces.
The first draft of my short story wasn't terrible, per se, but it definitely wasn't publishable. Taking it to critique group helped me sort out exactly what I wanted to say, what my character's growth should look like, how to write a better ending, what did and didn't make sense. Basically, they helped me take a jumble of ideas and turn it into a coherent short story.
A short story that's now been accepted for publication in the anthology.
So, when people tell you that critique groups are helpful, it's kind of the understatement of the year, in my opinion. I wouldn't be standing where I'm at right now without the help and support of my critique partners. I wouldn't have even dared to submit the short without their belief in my writing (and their listening to my whine and cry and pitch a fit about the actual writing of the story; sorry, guys).
If there's one piece of advice I have for writers seeking publication, it's find a group of other writers who are at or slightly above your current writing level and let them tear your work to shreds (aka, give you constructive criticism). Forming/joining this critique group has been the best thing to happen to my writing.
And, hey, Beyond the Trope wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that group!
Emily never in a million years thought she'd be the first Beyond the Trope member to get published. She can't thank her critique partners enough--and maybe she'll bring them more cookies at some point.
You can find her and her new serial novel at emilykaysinger.com or on Twitter @emilyksinger