Welcome to Author Wednesday. It’s my pleasure to welcome author Jade Kerrion to my blog today. Jade writes science fiction. With an undergraduate degree in biology and philosophy, becoming a science fiction writer was a logical next step in a multifaceted career path. I hope you enjoy reading her post today about the importance of critique groups to the writing process.
Finding the Right Critique Group
By Jade Kerrion
A few weeks ago, I went on a date with three older women. We split a 16″ pizza with 8 toppings and talked about the men we had married (and in some cases, divorced.) We also talked about the novels we were writing. Through the entire meal, my heart pounded. I knew the three women were evaluating me. It was, in effect, a first date.
At the end of the meal, I had apparently passed muster and was deemed worthy. I was invited into their critique group – which was exactly what I’d wanted ever since I’d heard of the Attic Girls – a play off Stephen King’s reference to his muses, the “boys in the basement.” (Actually, my muse is male and looks like Orlando Bloom, but that’s not the point.)
I’d joined many critique groups before, but why did I want to join the Attic Girls so badly? What makes a critique group good? Obviously, you want to be with strong writers whose feedback can help you grow, but it turns out, the volume of work you can get critiqued over a realistic timeframe is equally important.
Before I joined the Attic Girls, I was part of a critique group that met once a month. The group was large, about twenty to thirty people. Given the size, you could only read about three pages of your work. Let’s see . . . I can write a novel of 85,000 words in three months, and in three months of the critique group, I’d be able to share nine pages of my novel? Out of 200+ pages? That’s hardly enough feedback to make a difference to the novel.
I then found another group. This one met twice a month, and it was about half the size of the first group. You were encouraged to bring five pages of your work. Much better. Even so, over three months, I’d be able to share only thirty pages of my work. Better than nine pages, of course, but still a far cry from 200+ pages.
The Attic Girls, on the other hand, meet every week. Each week, two days before the meeting, we send our work to each other by email. We read the documents on our own time, and then spend the meeting itself providing feedback. The volume of the work you send out is up to you. The Attic Girls didn’t seem to flinch at the fifteen-page document I sent out last week. Think about it, fifteen+ pages a week . . . sixty+ pages a month . . . 180+ pages in three months. That’s almost my full novel. The Attic Girls provide timely feedback that allows me to keep up with my publishing schedule of three books a year.
In addition, the beauty of a small and consistent critique group is that your fellow writers grow with you. They figure out your style. They know if you’re writing hard and trying to find the best turn of phrase or if you’re just coasting along with acceptable but mediocre sentences. Best of all, because we meet in person, we hold each other accountable. If someone doesn’t offer something up for a reading two weeks in a row, we call her out.
The Attic Girls don’t replace my faithful cadre of beta readers, but where my beta readers enjoy the whole story and are tasked with calling out major plot holes or character lapses, my critique group focuses on the details that well-trained novelists notice, like POV shifts. The Attic Girls are the people running beside me in that endless marathon instead of just cheering from the sidelines.
If you don’t already utilize a critique group, I strongly encourage you to join one. It doesn’t matter if it’s large or small, online or in-person. It’s important to connect with other writers and to learn how to give and receive feedback. Perhaps one day, you’ll head out, as I did, on a nervous first date with a fabulous critique group.
About Jade: Jade Kerrion started out in fan fiction. She developed a loyal reader base with her fan fiction series based on the MMORPG Guild Wars, and was accused of keeping her readers up at night, distracting them from work, housework, homework, and (far worse), from actually playing Guild Wars. And then she wondered why just screw up the time management skills of gamers? Why not aspire to screw everyone else up too? So she made the transition to writing and publishing books that aspire to keep you from doing anything else useful with your time.
Jade unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series. Perfection Unleashed and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, have been described as “a breakout piece of science fiction” and drawn rave reviews for their originality and vision.
Her novel, When the Silence Ends, is a Young Adult spinoff the Double Helix series.
She is also the author of Earth-Sim, a compelling and whimsical view of Earth’s history through the eyes of the two students assigned to manage our planet.
She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her wonderfully supportive husband and her two young sons, Saint and Angel, (no, those aren’t their real names, but they are like saints and angels, except when they’re not.)
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