Those of us who have sustained a writing discipline soon realize we can’t see the forest for the trees. We just get too close to our work. We may feel a section isn’t quite right but all of our tinkering doesn’t relieve the sense of uneasiness..
We need CRITIQUE SUPPORT.
The first level of critique support is your mom or your best friend. NO! That’s not right! They are for emotional support! Let me begin again.
Your first level of critique support is a CRITIQUE GROUP.
A critique group is an exercise in developing a tough hide, and in the process you will also make lifelong friends.
The leadership of ACFW Indiana has encouraged all of our members to seek out such a group.
Rebecca Reed runs an online group within our chapter.
My long-running local, secular group has also gone online for the past fifteen months, which gives us the added advantage of including those who have moved away.
Then there is Heartland Writers Group. They only meet once a month, but it’s an excellent place to dip your toes into the sometimes icy waters of criticism. I have found Heartland to be extraordinarily gentle and kind with new writers.
Several eyes on your work has advantages.
1. You can see multiple reader reactions in the space of a few minutes. If many mention the same gripe about a particular line of text or a plot point, you can be sure they’re correct. You need to fix it. That part you couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong? They will probably pinpoint the problem for you.
I have found this aspect of critique groups most helpful. Because of their laser focus, I’ve become aware of my weaknesses and how to overcome them. I am much the better writer for it.
2.If only one person complains about a character or the story arc, etc. don’t worry about it. Their personal preference isn’t of value in a critique. It’s your story not theirs. Acknowledge their objection and move on.
Be careful with this one. If you’re like me, this kind of complaint can get under your skin—and yet the person is a single opinion versus all the rest!
In one meeting, I tired of the same guy always telling me he
didn’t like my characters. It may not have been his intention, but I felt he
implied I should change their personalities. I finally snapped at him. “My
character is who she is whether you like her or not.” He hasn’t been back to the
group since. I’ve always wondered: if I'd had more self-discipline, would he have
remained with the group? I have learned to nod, take notes, and remain silent.
3. If half of the group points out something they dislike about an aspect of your submission, and the other half are convinced otherwise, lively discussion ensues.
“The character is too kind,” gripes one member of the group.
“No, no! Her actions and words fit her personality!”
“But is she realistic?”
“Absolutely! I’ve known people like this character.”
Perfect! You’ve created a passion in your readers. Keep it just the way it is. When such discussions occur over my work, I leave the meeting totally fulfilled! Meanwhile, I take notes on their comments just to review and see if I land on one side of the debate or the other.
If you don't already have one, I urge you to find a critique group.
Local, online, international. Find a group that you feel comfortable with. I guarantee you will grow--as a writer, an individual, a child of God!
Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.
A wife, mother of three, grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web: