Kristen Lamb is one of my absolute favorite bloggers. She has a way of dragging me into her posts with her engaging, honest, and fun writing style despite the inevitable pile of work on my plate. I always learn something or come away from her posts encouraged or motivated and glad I invested the time.
Today, I read a post on KL’s blog about critiquing. You can find her post here.
I started leaving a comment and realized it was getting a wee bit long. Rather than write a book in the comments section of KL’s blog, I decided to do my own post on what it takes to make a great CG (critique group). My CPs (critique partners) and I have been discussing this lately. We are in agreement that our group, The Cupcake Crew, works really well. Here are some of the reasons we’ve come up with as to why that might be:
(1) We write in the same broad genre and read in similar subgenres to what group members write.
If you’ve got a Sci-Fi reader critiquing historical romance, no matter how good the intent, the Sci-Fi gal might miss plot nuances important to historical rom and vice versa. Critique on plot, character motivation, and setting is best, IMO, when group members are well-read in the genre you write and vice versa.
That’s not to say the Sci-Fi reader won’t have anything to contribute. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Every reader who is passionate about what they like to see in a book will have valuable critique. But the more I read, the more I notice that subgenres have rules and common tropes and things their fans will be looking for. It helps if your CPs understand those nuances of your particular genre.
(2)We’re all at similar places in our careers.
No one’s riding coattails or throwing around lofty-ass unchecked opinion because they’re a bestseller while the rest of us pleebs are nobodies. We’re all at relatively the same level and hoping to move forward in our careers while cheering each other on. We all have a humble, grateful attitude toward the little bit of success we’ve all found so far, and we’re hoping for more success with hard work.
It might be a coincidence, but all 3 of us, who had been trying to get published for years, signed our first publishing contracts within 1 year of meeting as a group. Of course, we had submissions out and had been pushing for publication before we started meeting, so wheels were in motion, but IMO, the confidence, support, and camaraderie of our CG were instrumental as we all took this step in our careers together.
(3) We all have the same level of commitment to the group and to making writing work as a career.
We read each others work and meet on a weekly basis. This is a big time commitment, and we take it seriously. Without similar levels of commitment, the group wouldn’t hang together as well as it does, and the critique wouldn’t be so consistent. I can’t imagine the frustration of having a group made up of people with different levels of motivation and commitment.
(4) We are all decent, passably sociable, polite people who understand the purpose and process of critique.
The purpose and process of critique could be a whole other blog post. I won’t get into it here. Suffice it to say, we all (a) want to grow as writers (b) give advice to encourage each other to grow as writers and (3) respect each other’s opinions, even if we don’t always agree.
Need I say more? Who wouldn’t want to sweeten critique with a tasty treat?
Okay, seriously, the cupcakes don’t hurt, but they’re not essential to The Cupcake Crew’s success as a group. What is essential is that we all agree on a format and location for meeting. Whether you’re meeting in a brick and mortar location or using a free Yahoo group online to organize your submissions, you need a “place” to gather and be organized or chaos will rule.
For The Cupcake Crew, it’s like a perfect storm of factors that make us work. I fell very blessed and wish everyone could be so lucky. But I didn’t find my way into this CG easily. It happened after several trials and “meh” results with other CGs that didn’t quite meet the needs I had. I had to be a little selfish and step back from a situation that wasn’t working, and only after I did that, did this new, wonderful opportunity evolve. Maybemy genuine thankfulness has a little to do with experiencing a group that didn’t work as well for what I needed at the time.
For anyone looking for a good CG, hang in there. It won’t happen over night, unless you’re very lucky. Seek out people similar to you in commitment level, career goals, and reading habits, and you might be surprised what develops.
For those with CGs that work, what’s your secret? What challenges have you had to overcome? What advice do you have for authors looking for a CG?