Janet Sumner Johnson
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Critique groups

Getting Vested


13, 2012 |

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Just before the new year, my friend talked me into signing up for a half-marathon with her. Up to then, we’d casually exchanged running time (taking turns watching our kids), but she was ready to get more serious.

Honestly, I have never had the desire to run a marathon or even a half marathon. I ran for soccer or basketball . . . running with a purpose I called it . . . but never just to run. Only crazies do that.

But then some stuff happened and I needed a distraction. Something I could do to completely get away from all the whirrings of my mind (so you can see why writing wouldn’t really fit the bill this time). I paid my money and suddenly, I’m vested in the craziness of running to run.

I quickly learned that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to make some additional purchases. Appropriate running clothes (because believe me, you run for an hour or more and it’s essential!), the right shoes, plus a little gadget (I use Nike+) to track my progress. If I want to succeed, I need to know where I stand and how fast I’m improving.

Because time is of the essence here. March 17th, I have to be able to run for 13 miles.

I’m guessing you know where this is going. The writing thing.

Are you vested?

Are you so anxious to succeed in your writing that you’re willing to put up some hard cold cash to get there?

Do you make sure you have the right equipment, the right training (think critique partners, conferences, seminars, writing books)? Are you tracking your progress so you know that you’re improving (think multiple drafts, multiple books)?

Just something to think about. 😉

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Forming Critique Groups


11, 2011 |

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Since I first joined a critique group over 6 years ago, my writing has improved immensely! For anyone who’s serious about writing, I highly recommend finding one. Not always so easy, though.

Last week I got into an e-mail discussion with Colene Murphy about how our critique groups work and how we met them (and if you don’t already know her, you should totally click the link and become acquainted . . . she’s a lot of fun!). With her permission, I’m going to share some of our discussion.

How We Met Our Groups

Colene met her group through blogging. She said, “We all connected right around the same time when we started up, we all got close quickly, then we figured out we all wrote YA fantasy. Just clicked!”

I met my current group through the SCBWI Yahoo group for my area. I sent out an e-mail saying I was new to the area and wondered if there were any groups who met near me. One contacted me, inviting me to meet with them and the rest is history.

How We Critique

Because they don’t live near each other, Colene meets with her group on Skype once a week, and they take turns submitting 50 pages at a time. She said, “We usually spend about 2 hours on the 50 pages. We go through a chapter at a time and bring up things we think really need to be discussed and ask questions where we need an answer on something. Grammar and little things we don’t mention just because it would take so long.”

In my group, everyone can submit up to 10 pages every Sunday. We have a week to return our comments via e-mail (we use the “Track Changes” feature of Word). Once a month we meet in person, where we can discuss not only that week’s submission, but any other larger concerns we may have. We comment on things from grammar to pacing to plot. Whatever strikes us as we read.

What I Learned

1. If you are ready to find critique partners, there are a lot of ways to do so.

Point is, there are a lot of ways to meet potential critique partners. It may not always work out, but you never know if you don’t try.

2. Make sure you find a critique method that works for you.

In short, know what you want to gain from your critique partners, and know what you’re willing to give to them. And if you find that a particular group isn’t working for you, you always have the option of gracefully backing out and seeking a new one.

If you are in a group, I’d love to hear how you connected with them and how your group works. So many ways to do it!

If you are looking for a group, or even a single critique partner, please feel free to give a shout-out in the comments. Be sure to mention what genre you write and perhaps the best way to contact you for those who may be interested. Who knows? Perhaps you may find that perfect CP!

Or if you prefer more anonymity, contact me (via my handy-dandy “Contact Me” tab), and I’ll do what I can to connect those with common interests.  🙂

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