I’ve been lax for the last couple of weeks.Â Well, not lax, really.Â I went out on the road to play music (six dates in eight days), and even though I brought my laptop with me, it was all I could do to edit a few chapters of my latest novel.Â The distractions and the travel were so intrusive, that the blogging just didn’t happen.Â Plus I’ve had some upheavals here on the home front, so my apologies to those who think I’ve vanished.Â I’m back.
I want to write about writers groups.Â Critique groups, specifically.Â I am a big believer in them.Â And it doesn’t matter what kind of writers are in a particular critique group.Â If you join, you will become a better writer.Â That’s all there is to it.
There are very small critique groups, limiting their membership to maybe three or four people, and then the size escalates from there.Â In the small groups, each member may get up and read, then listen to the criticism of his fellow members.Â Or each member may distribute a copy of his read to the others who take it home, examine it, mark it up, then deliver their critiques at the next meeting.
In the larger groups, the piece is almost always read aloud by the writer to the other members, who then critique it on the spot.
I’m currently a member of four writers groups here in Las Vegas, two of which are critique groups. They are: Â the local chapter of Sisters In Crime, the Las Vegas Writers Group, the Henderson Writers Group, and an as-yet unnamed crew. Â The Henderson Writers Group (one of the critique outfits) usually attracts 20-30 people to each meeting.Â The writers are a mixed bag, writing in all genres, published and unpublished.
These last few weeks, I’ve been reading a chapter a week of my latest novel to this group.Â Prior to these reads, I had gone over that novel countless times, looking for ways to make it better, adding stuff here, deleting stuff there, moving other stuff around, fixing typos, and so on. Â I thought it was pretty close to right when I brought chapter one in to read.
Well, the critiques I received were things which I hadn’t seen in all the times I’d been over that book, and you know what?Â I never would’ve seen them. They were things that, for some reason, my brain was not geared toward spotting.Â Some of these things were obvious to everyone but me, while some were extremely subtle…moving a phrase from the end of a paragraph to the beginning, for example.Â Either way, they’d escaped my attention altogether. Â That’s the beauty of these groups. Â All those other eyes and ears, backed up by brains different from mine, can and will see stuff which I could never catch.
And it goes without saying (although I will say it) that my novel is much better because of the critiques I received from this group.
Memo to all writers, published and unpublished:Â If you want to improve your WIP, and ultimately your writing itself, join a local writers group.Â They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!