Writing and Critique Groups

coffee dateHi everyone! Welcome to another coffee date with moi 🙂 Here is the question for this month:

Maegen asks: “How do you go about finding a critique group or critique partner? How important is that in finishing your novels?”

When I first started writing, I wrote solo. I didn’t know a lot about writing, or that people met to share their work and help each other out. It wasn’t until two years into my writing journey that I discovered the Oregon Christian Writers  and attended my first “mini” weekend conference.

After that, I attended the Mount Hermon Writers Conference where I was part of a small mentoring group led by Randy Ingermanson. We shared our work online in a closed group for a year before we each slowly drifted our own way.

Those were the only two times I’ve been part of anything like a critique group. For the most part, I’m still a solo writer. There are benefits to critique groups, granted you find the right one. By that I mean a group that is open, kind, mature, and know how to critique gracefully. Fortunately I was never part of a “bad” group, but I heard enough horror stories to decide that I didn’t really want to be part of one.

However, I have always worked with beta readers: people who are not part of the writing world who can give me feedback on my story. Then I work with my editor who knows the in’s and out’s of fiction (plot, POV, etc…). And recently I have found a critique partner who worked with me on Heir of Hope. We met years ago at a writer’s conference, stayed in touch, and eventually our relationship evolved into one where we help each other out: she’s great at editing, and I’m decent at story content.

If you are interested in finding a critique group, there are a couple places to look that I’ve heard are good: ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) has a couple groups, Mount Hermon has a mentoring track which can turn into a critique group, and wherethemapends used to have a critique group for speculative writers, but I don’t know if that one is around anymore.

I think the best thing for a beginning writer is to learn the basics: read books on writing, go to conferences, and write, write, write! Randy Ingermanson once said you need to write a million words before you start writing something worth reading. I rewrote Daughter of Light a couple times before I hit that millionth word mark 😉

Here is a blog I wrote a year ago with the names of books, conferences, etc… that helped me as a writer: How to Become a Writer

Write your story first, then find a group, partner, or beta readers. A rough draft will contain your most original voice and the heartbeat of your story. Discover who you are as a writer, and your story, before you pass it on to others. And find those people who are invested in you first as a writer, not just in critiquing your work. Those are the people you hand your “baby” to.

I hope that helps. Good luck, Maegen!

If you have a question you want answered during next month’s coffee date, feel free to leave your question in the comments below 🙂

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