We welcomed a new member to our critique group tonight. Patrice Garrett joined Billie Settles, Andy Gloege, Julie Winrich and myself for a full dance card. Actually, we’re looking at a sixth possibility due to periodic members absences.
When I first joined Redwood Writers Club back in 2006 or so, Christi Phillips, the author of The Rosetti Letter and The Devlin Diaries was the guest speaker at a General Membership meeting. After her talk, she took questions. Someone asked her what would she do differently if she had a “do-over”. Without much consideration, her answer was, “I’d have joined a critique group and gotten the first book done much faster.”
This is why I love my group. They make me a better writer. The call me on phony or stilted dialog, make suggestions when the plot is under-drawn and cheer me on when I need it. Of course, we all do the same thing for each other. I’m not special—this is a group dynamic.
Not all groups are created equally. I was in one in Bishop years ago and my offering was my police thriller in the middle of poetry and literary fiction. I got merciless criticism and left feeling like I should trade in my hobby for stamp collecting. I didn’t return to the group even though I did take a Creative Writing class from the teacher/leader. In fairness to the group, my writing wasn’t very good. The plot was riddled with my personal agenda and the scope of the novel wasn’t well thought out. In short, they were right.
Last Thursday, I put a problem scene to my group. We brainstormed and I walked away with some good ideas. The next day, Andy emailed me a scene synopsis he’d conjured up that was spectacular. I haven’t decided how much I’m going to use from his idea but at least I have a direction. He gave me some solid character quirks to work with and ways to advance the plot.
It doesn’t get much better than that.