Real Writers Don’t Eat Quiche They Use Critique Groups

I actually happen to like quiche, it’s breakfat in a pie who doesn’t like that?  I just thought the title was funny.

Anyway, I mentioned briefly in my last post that if you plan on getting published then you must belong to a critique group.  Of course when I say a critique group I don’t mean a classroom of first and second graders that tell you your story is wonderful.  They just want extra recess time and will tell you anything you want to hear.   I am talking about a group of writers and illustrators preferably in the same genre you are writing in that will look at your work objectively and give you honest feedback.  This is invaluable to a writer or illustrator.  You can go to every conference from Massachusetts to LA, read every blog, (some multiple times ehh..hmm) read every book on how to write the perfect picture book but nothing is as valuable as seeing your work through someone else’s eyes.

Now this can be tough for some.  You just produced something that you are very proud of and now you hand it over to a group of people who are going to rip it apart.   But I tell you this is a good thing, and it is the only way we become better at what we do.  A thick skin is a helpful thing to have.  For me when I get a critique, don’t tell me my story is good, I know it’s good or I wouldn’t have written it.  Good stories don’t get published; they sit in the slush pile waiting to be permanently filed in the recycle bin. Tell me what’s wrong with my story, so I can fix it and make it great.

Something else people don’t seem to realize is that information from a critique group just doesn’t come from getting your story critiqued, but also by critiquing others in the group.   Seeing what works and what doesn’t work in other people’s stories can make you a better writer.

Now I know I may sound like a critique group is only there as some masochistic entity getting joy by telling each other they are horrible writers.  But that is hardly the case, on most days.  Support is a huge part of the group.  When I get rejection letter after rejection letter and feel like giving up my critique group is there with words of encouragement.  Information about classes, conferences, publishers, agents, who’s accepting submissions, who isn’t is all shared within the group.  This is really funny when you think about it since we are all in competition with each other.  But it doesn’t seem to matter because when one person in the group has success that feeling of accomplishment is shared throughout the group.

So go to the SCBWI web page, and find a critique group in your region.  If there isn’t one, go to your local library and start one.  If you can’t get out of the house due to other things going on in your life, then you can go to the SCBWI discussion boards and start an E-Critique group.  There is no excuse, so put on your thick skin, suck it up and become a better writer.

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