Monday, May 3, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect: critique groups

I'm one of those writers who enjoys working alone for hours. And so, for the first year or so, that's exactly what I did.  The problem with that was the only feedback I received was from my husband.  My spouse is a fine psychologist and writes professional reports competently, but  is not much for creative writing.  His criticism was unfailingly on target, but there was just very little of it.

I suppose I was afraid someone would tell me I was hopelessly untalented and should give up on writing.  Maybe I just didn't want to do the work I knew was coming to rewrite the book.  Unfortunately, I couldn't escape the fact that, like playing tennis or learning the piano, I would need lessons and practice.  Finally, I went in search of a group through which I could receive constructive, yet gentle, criticism.  What a surprise when I actually found exactly that kind of support.

For about six years now I have attended the twice monthly meetings of the South Carolina Writers Workshop.  When I began reading the first chapters of SNOWSTORM, I knew they didn't particularly like my tough, teenaged character.  Looking back, some of their advice was of the most basic kind.  They had to start somewhere, of course.  A recent glance at my first draft made me wince, so I can easily imagine my fellow writers wishing they could cover their ears. They didn't, however.  Then and now, their critique is gentle and helpful.  Their sincere encouragment meant a great deal when the rejections were flowing regularly to my mailbox.

So, for any aspiring writers reading this, I hope you will find some folks like this to give you honest opinions and sincere support.  I was very lucky, because I don't think such people are easy to find, but when you do find them, don't let them get away!

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