Thursday, January 12, 2017

Positive Critique is Positive

I live in a tiny little village in Northwest England where I always see someone I know while walking the dog, I know the local butcher and the postman by name, and I know the names of all of the kids on our street. The one thing I didn't know -- any writers who I could interact with in real life. 

Until very recently, ALL of my writer friends were virtual. Which is great, because yay writer friends. But not so great because I couldn't remember the last time I actually spoke to someone in person about writing. Even as a self-professed semi-introvert, I felt like something was missing from my writing life. So, I did the only thing I could think of -- I posted a "hey, is anyone interested" post on the community Facebook page.

And, lo and behold, people WERE interested! People I didn't know, but who agreed to meet me in the local pub on a random Monday night. We met for the first time in early December to get acquainted and discuss expectations for the group. I'll admit, it was daunting, but also really cool to meet fellow writers living down the street. A couple of people are poets. One woman is starting her first novel, and another is producing a book based on her crafts business. We agreed that for all of us critique was our primary motivation for joining a group, so the agenda for next time would focus on feedback.

Fast forward to yesterday and the first "real" meeting. Everyone brought something to share and we all exchanged work and took turns providing feedback. As is the case with many new groups, almost all of the feedback given was positive -- which doesn't mean it's not useful!

We, as writers, are almost pre-programmed to believe that the only feedback worth having is that which criticizes because it helps us to improve. For me, in the drafting stages, it's nice to hear when something's working, but it's improvement that I'm really after. So, when those assembled around the table yesterday looked at the first three pages of my latest book and said good things, I'll admit that at first I was a tiny bit disappointed.

Then I thought about it some more. Almost everyone laughed or smiled while reading my opening pages. Result! I'm writing a rom com so I know I'm hitting the right note. I asked specifically about language because my main character is a Brit, and they assured me she was spot on. Another result! And everyone said they were interested in my love interest and wanted to know more about him and where the story was going. Three for three -- and all of that after reading only three pages.

It's no wonder I came home and cranked out another 3K words on that story. The writing group feedback -- and the encouragement gained from such positive feedback -- was inspiring. Will I take it to the bank and decide I don't need editing and/or the rip-it-to-shreds feedback my critique partner so lovingly provides? Absolutely not. But will I use it to give myself a push to make my (self-imposed) deadline for getting this draft done? You bet I will! In fact, if you'll excuse me, I have another 3K to write today.


Carrie Beckort said...

That's awesome, Brenda! I love my critique group. We all write something different, but I love all the varied views and opinions. We submit our work to a private on-line group where we can download, read, and make notes prior to meeting. During the meeting we discuss the main points of our critique but we upload our comments with all the details and any line edits we might have marked. There is something great about getting feedback from other writers. As you say, I'll still keep my beta readers and editor, but at least I feel like this time I'll have a much better draft to put in front of them.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I also live in a small town. Actually, my county is so rural that all the towns sort of mesh together. Anyway, I met another YA author in my area and we meet once in awhile to write together. It's awesome. I feel fortunate to have met her. Authors need human interaction in real life.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Oh, I like that idea. Do you just use Google docs or something else? I'm not sure everyone in my group is tech savvy, but if it's easy enough, it might be possible.

Brenda St John Brown said...

They do! I've decided that human interaction and being outside every day are the things that keep me sane.

Carrie Beckort said...

One of the guys created a Yahoo group, but Google docs should work just as well. We have had a similar issue, but everyone seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Brenda, I feel exactly the same, I spend so much time in my head and by myself, sometimes I lose sight of reality. It takes human contact and feedback to keep me on track. Sound like you are pulling together a few folks that can offer support and encouragement. Bravo! I'm intrigued by your story! Send it out!

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