Friday, March 2, 2012

6 Authors Answer: What has your critique group done for you?

This weekend, I'm off on my critique group's first ever writing retreat in Bethany Beach, Delaware, so instead of Six Sentence Sunday (see you next weekend!), I thought I'd feature my critique group and ask them each one simple question:
Here's what some of them had to say:

AUTHOR NAME: Magda Alexander (paranormal romance); Victoria Wellington (Regency romance)
GENRE(S): Paranormal and Regency Romances
TITLE AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR WORK IN PROGRESS:  To Pluck a Rose (a spicy Regency romance)

I love being a member of the MRW Critters.  First of all, I love the fellowship of writers, where we get to celebrate each other's triumphs and talk about things of mutual interest to us.  Second, I have become a better writer through not only having my work critiqued, but critiquing other writers as well.

AUTHOR NAME:  Christi Barth
GENRE(S): Contemporary romance
TITLE AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR WORK IN PROGRESS:  A Fine Romance (Book 2 in my Chicago wedding planning trilogy, contemporary romance)

When I first sought out critique partners, I joined an enormous loop of more than 200 people.  I learned very quickly what not to do from that, but I didn't so much learn how to fix what was wrong with my own manuscripts.  While everyone on there was well-intentioned, they simply didn't have the skill set to help me.  Then I joined a small group of eight who were supportive and helped me get to the next level in my writing.  But like many things in life, I outgrew them.  Which was a valuable lesson in and of itself.  As much work and as many false starts as it may take, you need to find not just any critique partner, but the ones who are a good fit for you.

My current critique group is wonderful.  Since I joined the group, I've sold six books and gotten an agent - that should tell you how helpful they are!  They are a wonderful sounding board for plots, for marketing, for frantic synopsis help or figuring out what to say to an editor.  They are an extremely valuable resource.  They give me confidence, they give me cold, hard truths on my writing, they give me hugs, they challenge me to write the best book I can, and they steer me in the right direction (and they cured me of my exclamation point addiction!).  Every time I hit a plateau in my writing, they help guide me up to the next level. I am beyond grateful for my critique group.

AUTHOR NAME:  Lula Diamond
GENRE(S):  Contemporary Romance / Contemporary Erotic Romance

This crit group has challenged me to write more and communicate better.  I value the comments from our group even when they are tough because they help me to progress.  The group support and friendship are great additional benefits.

AUTHOR NAME:  Joya Fields
GENRE(S): Romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance
TITLE AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR WORK IN PROGRESS:  Wrong Side of Midnight (romantic suspense)

To put it bluntly, I wouldn't be published if it weren't for my critique partners. Aside from new friendships, which are a wonderful, unexpected part of being in a critique group, my writing has grown stronger from the comments, suggestions, shared resources and brainstorming from my ten critter partners. No writer can truly see their work as a reader will view it, and every writer should have other professionals read their work. It's great when sister, mother or friend read your work and tell you it's good, but when another writer views that same WIP, they'll know to look for conflict, motivation, dialogue, etc. It takes another writer to catch not only the small things, but big things like POV shifts, goals, and theme. My first offer for a book contract came after a revise and resubmit request. The editors thought the opening of my story needed to be faster paced. I sent it past my critique partners, who each offered valuable advice, made the changes, and then Ta-Da! A contract. I'm telling you, I don't know who celebrated the news more--me or my critique partners!

Writers are also very generous about sharing their hard-earned experiences with other writers, too. Laura K., Christi, and Sharon, were all published in full-length fiction before I was, so when I received my long-awaited contract, they shared their contacts and advice--everything from how to run a blog tour to how to order Romance Trading Cards. What a lifesaver!

Every member of our group brings their own special talent. With eleven members, I was worried everyone would simply find the same things to fix in my manuscripts. But each and every time I receive my critiques, there's at least one thing that each members find that the others did not. And thanks to them, my stories are stronger.

At our most recent meeting, I complained about needing to find experts in PTSD and psychologists/PTSD victims to interview to make my story realistic. The next day, three of my critique partners emailed me potential resources from their contacts.Where would I be without them? Probably in the bottom of a slush pile. J

AUTHOR NAME: For now, I go by Teresa Hearl, which is also my real name.
GENRE: Light-hearted contemporary romance
PUBLISHED OR PRE-PUBLISHED: I remain pre-pubbed at the moment. After years of writing poetry, newsletters, short stories, children stories, and dreadfully flawed novels (which made a lovely bonfire), I am able to commit to writing a romance that I won’t burn.
Another Fine Mess (contemporary romance)

If you ever expect to publish, you must be strong when you turn over your precious written child, and expect it to return bloody. Too much backstory. Not enough emotion. Where’s the plot? Is that physically possible? You want your critique partners to give it too you straight.

Also, you want to hear where they feel your strengths lie. Your hero is hot. Your idea is unique. I can’t wait to read what comes next. That character made me spew milk out of my nose. (That would be a good thing for my story) You know if you hear the same criticism or compliment several times, it has merit.

In our critique group, each of us has a critical eye for different aspects of story. After a session on the chopping block, it takes a week or so to go through all of the comments. After a few sessions, I know more of my weaknesses, and where my voice shines. 

Our little Critter family holds a special place in my heart. We support each other and celebrate every victory. We share business knowledge, help each other with promotion, and encourage when there’s a rejection. The goal for our group is for each member to publish. My writing is stronger now, thanks to them. Every time a Critter Book is born, I feel like a proud aunt. I didn’t create it, but I’ll be there to stroll that baby around.

AUTHOR NAME: Laura Kaye (that's me! *grins*)
GENRE: Paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance
TITLE AND DESCRIPTION OF YOUR WORK IN PROGRESS: South of Surrender (Book 3 in my Hearts of the Anemoi series, paranormal); Her Brother's Best Friend (contemporary)

In my experience, having critique partners has been invaluable. I was already contracted when I joined my critique group, but my best friend, YA paranormal romance author Lea Nolan, had long served as my most trusted critique partner before the Maryland Romance Writers formed this awesome group of which I've now been a part for about 18 months. 

The key to successful critique partners is that they must also be writers professionally pursuing publication, and preferring in your genre. Those are the people who know the norms and expectations, who have studied the craft, and who know what it's like to receive feedback on something over which you've sweated and lost sleep, and so they know how to give feedback in a way that's honest and useful but not brutal. Critique partners are also excellent as support mechanisms. My group meets once a month, four hours on a Sunday afternoon over lunch. It's huge fun! We each lunch, dessert, have some wine, and talk writing. They've become my friends, not just my CPs. 

Now, I have a whole group of trusted critique partners I can call on to review a draft before I send it off to my editor, give me a reality check over whether a first chapter is working, or cry or rant to when I receive a rejection or other disappointing news (doing those things in private is okay, doing those things in public, not so much LOL). Without question, my writing has improved tremendously as a result of my critique group's feedback, and I've learned to critique myself better as a result of participating in this group and critiquing others.

AUTHOR NAME:  Loni Lynne
GENRE: I write paranormal, erotic romance and am dabbling in contemporary lately
PUBLISHED OR PRE-PUBLISHED:  I’m pre-published but do have a blog site at
TITLE AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR WORK IN PROGRESS: Yes Sir, That’s My Baby (contemporary); Immortal Heat (paranormal); Wanted: One Ghost (paranormal)

I’ve grown as a writer since joining my critique group (MRW Critters J) with both the mechanical elements and the emotional development of my stories. Since joining I’ve gone from generic rejections from agents/editors to receiving revise and resubmits with great comments directly from the sources.  Every bit helps.


By Christi Barth:
Upcoming release in August with Carina Press: Planning for Love is the first in a Chicago wedding planning trilogy. In the harsh spotlight of reality television, a romance-a-holic wedding planner tries to snare the anti-Cupid. 

My latest release - available now - is Cruising Toward Love.  Can an unexplained breakup and ten years of heartache be cured by the romance - and endless buffets - of a tropical cruise?

By Lula Diamond:
Flat Out Love - WIP

By Joya Fields:
Brooke Richards survived the earthquake that took her parents and most of her leg, but she needs time to regroup. A trip to Florida for a state-of-the-art prosthesis and to visit her best friend Linda seems ideal. But the trip turns traumatic when Brooke witnesses Linda’s boat disintegrating in a fiery explosion.

Police officer Garrett Ciavello believes the blast was intentionally set to hide something Linda found on a dive. When Brooke offers her expertise in underwater archeology, Garrett accepts her help with the investigation. But since his fiancĂ©e’s death years ago, Garrett has become overprotective, and as they are drawn to each other, Garrett realizes he will risk anything to keep Brooke safe.Will they heal each other’s wound and find a killer…before it’s too late?

Bianca McClain has worked for years to achieve her dream job in New York City. After her grandmother passes away, she returns to the small town she grew up in to ready her house for sale. The slow, friendly pace of the town and its citizens, especially Pete the mailman, appeal to her—but there’s no way she’s giving up everything she’s accomplished in New York.

Born and raised in Centreville, MD, Pete Schaeffer loves his small town mail carrier job and can’t imagine leaving for any reason—or anyone—so he's dumbfounded by his intense attraction to Bianca, a woman with a fast-paced life in the big city. Pete and Bianca soon find themselves lost in each other’s arms. Will the small-town guy and big-city girl find common ground and lasting love, or will their differences drive them apart?

By Teresa Hearl:
Another Fine Mess - WIP
A playboy businessman now in witness protection meets an attractive banker when her mother stomps across his roof. He finds himself working for her at the small town bank. Chemistry ignites and makes it hard for either of them to focus on their goals. He wants to return to his old life by stopping his brother’s killer, even though no one waits for his return. She wants to become bank manager to pay off debts created by ex-boyfriends, even though her real joy is working with dogs. Neither realizes that their efforts will never fill the empty spot inside, until danger unifies them to fight for what truly matters. Love.

By Victoria Wellington
To Pluck a Rose - WIP
Intent on avoiding the disastrous example set by her parents whose tumultuous union ended in tragedy, Lady Sophia D’Aubernon plans to enter into a marriage of convenience. Her strategy does not envision widower Lord Nicholas Lindsey, the ton’s most scandalous rake, who’s sworn never to marry again.  After they share one magical kiss, she escapes to her aunt’s country estate. Surprised to discover Lord Lindsey as one of the guests, Lady Sophia struggles against her attraction to a man hell bent on making her his own.

My Critique Group's Lunch, complete with wine & chocolate!
Do you have a critique partner or a critique group? If so, what do you feel they do for you? AND, how did you find your partner or group? - people always want to know that!

Thanks for reading!
Laura and the MRW Critters!


booklover0226 said...

Interesting and informative post.

Friends, chocolate, and wine...what a great combination!

Tracey D

Laura Kaye said...

Thanks Tracey!