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Friday, April 20, 2007

Crit Groups

The other day Miss Snark said that your crit group is only as good as its members. Holy cow, she said a mouthful.

I’ve had wonderful critters, snarky critters, crispy critters and clueless critters. I’ve learned something from each of them---yes, even the clueless ones.

But MS was right. You are only as good as the company you keep. I’ve had critters I liked very much on a personal level, but their work never matured. I learned what NOT to do from them.

I’ve had other critters who were so malevolent and ill tempered I hated to see their name come up on my reviews, but so help me they knew their stuff. If they were willing to put up with my insufferable drivel, I was willing to tolerate their acid drool. I learned humility and compassion from them.

Then there are those who started out as drive-bys. Folks just looking to pick up an extra point, and somehow ended up on one of my stories. We had chemistry, honesty, disagreements and epiphanies. I call them my friends as well as my reviewers.

We poke holes in each others work until it bleeds. We offer suggestions and resources. We rally (I mean really RALLY) to each other whenever any of us have something big coming up. My critique partners are at the top of their game. Many have been published. Others are so close to book deals I can taste it. All of them are supportive and instrumental in getting me this far, this quick.

I will give part of the credit to myself. I am really good at reading people. When I first started and didn’t know anyone I deliberately targeted writers I deemed as better than myself. At first I only read their posts and the reviews others had given them. Eventually, I took the plunge and reviewed them too and thus started a secret cycle of mentor and student.

As with any relationship, there has to be a fair amount of give and take. I tend to write very thorough reviews. If that’s not reciprocated it doesn’t take long before I start feeling used. The next step is the door for that reviewer.

I think it was Sarah who taught me the phrase, “mutual admiration society”. That just cracked me up. I think that’s what Miss Snark’s writer was talking about when she said crit groups didn’t do her any good.

Writers tend to be such weenies on a psychological scale. We really crave that validation. But you know what? You won’t get it from a crit group. They aren’t the ones buying (or not buying) your work.

A good crit group is a rudder, not a petting zoo. I love my CPs, every last one of them. I try not to saddle them with my baggage. They do enough work keeping the world safe from bad writing.

Hugs and kisses to all my CPs. You guys are the best!


Anonymous said...

I've learned a tremendous amount from critters, but you're right. They have to be tough and able to tell you things you don't already know.


Maria Zannini said...

Absolutely, I still have the lumps you gave me. LOL