2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

Friday, July 6, 2012

Conference Critique Groups- Must Do or Don't?

I talked Monday about my first pitch meetings last week at my first ever writing conference. It was a weekend of firsts-- I was also lucky to participate in a small group critique session with four other YA authors and multi-published awesome author Rob Thurman.

Each of us read aloud five pages of a manuscript we’d brought with us while the others followed along on (and marked up) their copies. Then Robyn gave us her take on the strong and weak points of the writing that she saw, and the others in the group weighed in. I basically kept my mouth shut because it was my first critique group, and I assumed I didn’t know what I was doing. I have to say everyone was pretty good- maybe that’s common at conferences. You only get people there who basically know what they’re doing? Not sure. First time.

Robyn is the kind of person who says exactly what she thinks-- not rudely, but honestly and without much sugar-coating. It was really interesting to listen to her critiques of the others. I agreed with almost every point she made (except for love triangles- she doesn’t like them- I do). I volunteered to go last (chicken) and it was a little bit nerve-wrecking, but I knew that it was for my own good. I was shocked to hear Robyn say afterward that she really liked my excerpt (loved it, actually) and had nothing negative to say except that the guy in the scene seemed so ideal that she couldn’t see why the main (female) character wasn’t jumping at the chance to be with him. Not bad. We were almost out of time, so maybe she would have been more critical with more time to elaborate (next time I’ll be braver and volunteer earlier. Or not.).

The others handed me their copies of my excerpt with their suggestions marked, and I had a chance to read them later. There were some really supportive comments and some suggested changes and word substitutions which I was thrilled to consider. I feel bad now that I didn’t really do the same on their excerpts. As the lame rookie in the group I really hesitated to tell anyone they should do anything differently. Next time I will, because I’ve learned that it really helps. If you’re like me, you look for mainly support from your closest family and friends, but from other writers, critiques are really valuable. Especially writers in your own genre. It’s that other set of informed eyes, catching things you’ve missed because you’re so close to the subject.

There was a lot to like about the Ozarks Romance Writers 25th annual conference. Some really good authors/speakers addressing different aspect of the craft and the business: Jennifer Brown, Leigh Michaels, Steven Law. The two agents in attendance, Cori Deyoe and Lucienne Diver spoke about the agent-author relationship and took questions from attendees. There was a nice lunch, awesome swag bags, and…. get ready for it… a Query Letter Gong Show. Ever wanted to know what will make an agent or editor stop reading your query letter? I’ll tell you about that next time. Until then, keep writing, and good luck!

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