By Lu Ann Staheli
How would you like to start a critique group?” Stephanni asked.
I had been in a group before, and it had been a miserable experience. Filled with too many writers more interested in a social group than to work on writing skills, I soon discovered most attendees were unskilled at offering valuable commentary. My ego enjoyed hearing “I loved it,”even when I knew the writing needed work, but praise alone will never help anyone improve his or her writing. Frustrated, I left the group.
When Stephanni called, I knew she was a talented writer and editor. I needed motivation to complete those unfinished books on my hard drive. A successful critique group would give me reason to write, people to tell me if my stories needed work, and support and suggestions from other diligent writers. I said yes.
Years later, we are a tight-knit group of close friends who aren’t afraid to tell each exactly what a manuscript needs, beg for ideas only minutes before a final deadline, and give suggestions that make each manuscript ready for an acceptance letter.
The payoff has been huge for each of us: 14 published novels, 2 non-fiction texts, an optioned movie script, a variety of magazine articles, newspaper columns, and electronic media among us, plus a body of work still under construction as we continue to meet each week and critique away.
If you are serious about being published, find yourself a critique group, then get busy honing your skills. Remember, you attend to learn and grow, not to be patted on the back and told your writing is wonderful. Leave that task to your spouse or mother.