By Andy Gloege
Andy is a member of Thrillerz, my critique group. With four members, we’re a small group of dedicated thriller writers who meet every two weeks. At last night’s meeting, Andy had something he wanted to add to July’s topic. I asked him to write it down. I thought I’d share it with you. Andy always has an interesting take on members’ work–unique and valuable. In this vein, he has something to say that other authors didn’t mention.
I added the song Dixie Chicken to a playlist on Spotify last week. I was a disc-jockey thirty years ago, and that song—a southern rock classic by Little Feat—played a lot. When it shuffled onto my car stereo I finally realized the point of the whole thing: everybody at the Commodore Hotel bar knows the chorus. They’ve all learned it from the same ingénue.
This is exactly why I appreciate my critique group. Somehow thirty-years back my headphones were off while I handled other things, and I missed the point of Dixie Chicken. Writers have to wrangle ninety-thousand word manuscripts into some sense of cohesion. Writers are human. Stuff will get missed. A good critique group makes notes on grammar, sentence structure, and theme. It also points out things the author might be too far inside the second-draft to clearly see: might Batman’s cape catch on that flagpole? If the killer wears stretch-pants, won’t everyone notice the gun? Instead of oregano, maybe you meant tarragon?
The world is an imperfect place, and filled with distractions. Errors of memory and judgement happen all the time. While writing a novel is a solitary experience, a good critique group makes the writer feel part of a community of artists, and develops its own internal chemistry about the kind of assistance each member needs.
Also, they won’t let you miss what’s going on at the Commodore Hotel.
Andy Gloege is a former writer and editor for CBS News. Currently working on a novel, he lives in Sonoma County, California, with his wife and son.