I used to be part of a wonderful weekly critique group of six very committed members plus a few others who came as they were able. We called ourselves Tuesday’s Children, and we’d been together for decades.
And then stuff happened. A wedding. An illness. Having other things to do besides writing. And our little group slowed down. Some put writing on the back burner. Eventually our meetings dropped their writing focus, and became occasional social get-togethers.
And then Covid happened. And one of our members passed away (not from Covid).
We gathered once on Zoom, and maybe we’ll do it again, but it’s not the same.
You may or may not know this about me, but I hate change, unless I initiate it.
I know, I know—change is inevitable, not optional. The ability to embrace change is critical to our survival. I get it.
Even though I do have several friends I can send manuscripts to, the loss of my weekly group hit me hard. Writing is such a solitary endeavor that my “colleagues” served as my support structure as well as my social circle.
Recently I joined a national writers’ organization (I’m not going to tell you which one), and one of its features is an online critique network. I wasn’t sure how that would work for me, but I signed up for the monthly orientation, one day late, thinking I wouldn’t start until April.
Instead, they included me in March’s email orientation, assuring me I could do the training (and homework) at my own pace.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken any type of class, and I felt overwhelmed. The organization has a certain way they want the critiques performed, in a very particular format. Initially I felt stupid; I couldn’t grasp the fine points. But, actually, as I went along, everything became clearer, and easier. I finished the 5-lesson training and was launched into the large group.
You’re required to do at least two critiques before you submit something of your own. You can submit up to two chapters (or multi-chapter excerpts of up to 2500 words) per week, but you must do at least two critiques for each submission you send in, preferably more. You can expect at least three people to critique your pieces, and if you don’t get three, you can send the group an email requesting enough critiques to equal three.
I read a bunch of submissions before I found one I was comfortable critiquing. Some were not good. Some left me at a loss of ideas for suggesting improvements. But finally I found one that resonated with me, and I dug in. Since then I found a WIP that I really like, and which I’d like to critique every future chapter of.
And then I started submitting my WIP, a middle grades fiction. I only have three chapters done at the moment, but I sent them all in.
The responses were very encouraging. The group has given me excellent feedback and shown me where my phrasing or structure is confusing. They’ve been very kind, and a small group of MG/YA authors asked me to join them. I haven’t committed yet, but I think I might, since I like their writing, and they seem to like mine.
The online critique network will never take the place of Tuesday’s Children in my heart, but it’s a viable substitute for a difficult time. As Covid slows down and gathering with others gets less scary, I know of a local writer’s group (I’ve been on their email list for a year) that I can start attending. And perhaps, in time, I’ll be able to attend a weekly in-person group again. One can only hope.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have an artistic support group or a critique group for your creative endeavors? Would you ever consider an online arrangement? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.