Getting a good critique group is hard. Even getting a solitary partner is hard, as I learned recently when I did the #CPmatch on Twitter and found no-one who wanted to be with me, nor anyone I wished to become a partner with.
Isn’t that a metaphor for love, dating, jobs, life in general…
But seriously, for an unpublished writer, still learning their craft, it’s uber important to get a good group of people around you who can help encourage you when you feel it’s all pointless (like you’re the worst writer in the world), who can give you insightful and quality feedback which will improve your work and in return, who’s work you can read and gain valuable editing and critical reading skills.
Well, I got lucky.
In July 2015, on a whim, I applied for the CBC Online Writing for Children Course, tutored by Catherine Johnson. I had just completed the final draft of my Masters final project, a 24,000 word extract from my novel, and was wondering what was next for me and my writing. So last minute I sent my application in, together with a short extract of my work.
It was a course where the 15 writers selected would be done based on the strength of their extracts. I didn’t hold out much hope then, thinking of hundreds of people much better than me that would be applying. It was an expensive course, too, I told myself. I was cushioning myself for the inevitable rejection that all writers know too well.
Five days later, I received an email. It was from Rufus Purdy at Curtis Brown. He said himself, and Anna Davis (the founder and Managing Director of Curtis Brown Creative) had really enjoyed my extract and would like to offer me a place on the course.
Delight was followed by disbelief. This led to fear and to anger and eventually the dark side…haha, only joking. No, I was chuffed and dutifully replied that I’d be delighted to take my place.
The course followed (I’ll do another blog on what it actually entailed and my experiences later) and near the end of completion, we had already formed a private Facebook group for the 15 of us to discuss our writing and to keep in touch post-course. I’d met wonderful people, who could really write (some WAYYYYY better than me!), and we agreed to continue with an informal writing group after the conclusion of the course.
Now with 15 people, how might that work. During the course we had rotated and subbed 3000 words each time. This was hard work for so many of us, who had full-time jobs, crates of kids and barely enough time to get the washing done, let alone critique several pieces of 3k words a week.
So, we compromised and made it work. And it still does. 2 people sub 1.5k words a week, on rotation. We are on the 6th rotation, not all have submitted 6 times, but every time someone has submitted, they have received at least 3 sets of feedback, though it’s usually more. My latest received 6 sets of feedback.
So, I am lucky. I know I am. We all are in this group. It’s beautifully balanced in terms in those whose who get very involved and those who are on the periphery but it suits us all. I have met the perfect critique group and my writing, as a result, has gone from strength to strength and I hope that the others would say the same.
The moral support, the emotional pick-me-ups, the group hugs (virtually, with some awesome gifs!) and the general nature of the people in the Scribblers has been incredible and I do hope we continue this for as long as we all write.
A beginner writer needs all of the above, you really do, so if you haven’t got one yet, find some like-minded people, who write in the same age group or genre, and make it work. Or apply to the CBC course, because what I’ve gained outwith the course is just as valuable as what I learnt on the course.
A critique group is worth the effort to find one. And for more than just writing feedback. So thank you to Lisa Bradley, Lisa Montgomery, Michelle L E Kenney, Lorna Riley, Cynthia Murphy, Owen Lean, Krystal-Lee MacRae, Sue McGlone, Sophie Joelle and all the other amazing Scribblers who will join us on here when they are ready. You are a great group and it’s only because of you that this blog is possible.
Okay, that was totes emosh – let’s move it on…
Does anyone else having a critique group? How does yours work?
We’d like to hear from you if you have any ace ideas, as we are always eager to improve ourselves.