Why have a critique group? Because they are necessary. I have a critique group. They see everything I write. In fact I’m not ready to submit it to either of my publishers until I’ve reworked the heck out of a piece and then they see it to find all the incongruities I missed. Having a critique group is invaluable to my process. Jannifer, Terri, and I fell into an acquaintance. I moved south of the twin cities and put out an all call for partners at my local chapter. Terri responded as she lived in my new neighborhood and so did Jannifer though she lives over an hour north of us. We met every other week at 4pm in the Apple Valley Panera. Sometimes we were there as longs as four or five hours. Yes, we made a point of buying something every hour or so and the establishment was wonderful to us.
However, times change. Jannifer lives half the year either in Yuma or on a cruise ship cause that’s her preferred retirement experience and somehow maintains her girlish figure. Terri works like a horse at a local insurance company and volunteers her time to her chapter, housing development board, victim groups and any number of other organizations. Me? I moved out of the state. But those two years of Panera critting brought us close and we continue to critique each other’s work over the internet. I trust them completely.
It took us about six months, I think, to get to the point where we no longer walked on eggshells to offer a harsh critique. Why? Because trust doesn’t happen overnight. After six months though, our motives were out in the open and we all realized we cared about the other’s work. We wanted their success and no matter what criticism was offered NEVER meant to offend anyone, just meant to tell it like it is. That kind of plain speaking and honest judgment of your work cannot be replaced.
It was Jannifer who read Marriage Plot (June release from Resplendence Publishing) and said Puck was too strong a secondary character. I struggled with Puck because he was the fun loving American who stole the show. Terri loved Puck and over two weeks tried to convince me he was the hero and I was focusing in on the wrong plot. I disagreed, but her insistence told me each evolution made Puck too strong… until I knocked off his luster. Too much. Cause then Jannifer said he was a nitwit, bonehead, boooooooring. It’s like working with Paula Abdul and Simon Cowel but somehow we get to the meat of the matter. I strengthened Puck, gave him his head (No AJ, not that kind of head) and took all references to his POV (point of view) out of the equation. We were all happy and Puck became the sweet, sexy, romantic, funny side-kick to the more serious primary relationship. I’m a little in love with Puck, still.
I had one more chapter in my latest work, More Than Words, when Jannifer told me my recent chapter was “the best thing you have ever written. I want more KYLIE!!!” to quote her. Seriously? I asked her if she was high and reread the chapter three times. Terri hasn’t weighed in yet. But such high praise on a rough draft is something worth keeping.
And like Anny Cook (fellow EC writer), I do spot checks with her and Amarinda Jones (another EC pal). If I can’t wrap my brain around a problem or need to test the waters to see if I’m on the right track (especially if it is publisher related guideline stuff) I send something off to them for a read. And I know I will get the same honest evaluation I would from Terri and Jannifer.
Anny, Amarinda and I carry on three-way emails daily since August (wow, really?) We chat like this all day long enjoying each other’s company, sometimes ticking each other off, but mostly chatting. They won’t color the truth. Trust. It’s what it all boils down to isn’t it?