Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My first critique group experience!

New Year's Resolution tracking:
Writing progress:  Nothing today but going to critique group counts, right?
Weight progress:  Excellent - 3 pounds down in the new year and keeping it off...just slow and steady.
Reading progress:  Nada.

So....my first critique group experience was nothing like I had imagined it would be.  AT. ALL.  I think I may be very used to all of my blogging friends and this awesome forum we have for communicating.  I'm one of those super friendly personal people (ummm...if you couldn't tell) who really enjoys connecting and getting to know others - granted, I'm shy at first and a bit reserved but I love, love, love meeting new people. 

Here's how my vision of what I thought would happen tonight went:  I enter the bookstore early, peruse the lovely shelves, buy something I probably don't need and won't read for another few months, get a cup of coffee, awkwardly look for my new critique group, join them five minutes early or so...just in time to chat with interesting people that are gushing about writing and that have this connection that can't be described, they welcome me with open arms and I sit back entranced in their critiques of each other's work...well, you get the picture.  I even envisioned meeting atleast one other woman my age...she and I would totally get along and get each other....we would exchange numbers and I would have a life long friend.  Clearly I read too much fiction. 

The only truth to the above vision was that I did indeed arrive early and of course bought something I didn't need.  In the form of this beautiful cover:


Don't get me wrong...that's not to say that I'm not going back to the critique group at all.  I am.  It just caught me by surprise.  The people were friendly but reserved...it was more business like than I had imagined.  Everyone chit chatted as we waited on the group to arrive but it was awkward...they asked my genre and I explained that my first two books were science fiction but my latest project was more young adult and yet another work in progress was more literary fiction...so I haven't found exactly where I'm comfortable just yet.  I'm enjoying jumping around.  They all just kind of nodded and smiled...but not alot of feedback.  I felt ditzy for randomly spilling things out as is my usual habit when I'm uncomfortable.  I randomly babble and smile and get excited when I talk.  Perhaps I look a little too anxious.  I really just need to scream **like me, please, just like me**.  Because in the end, that's all I want.  I'm a people person. 

I think it's because this certain group has an interesting mixture of people.  It's intriguing.  None of them are like me.  At first I didn't know what to do because it's uncomfortable to feel like you don't fit in but as I listened and watched, I realized this may be the absolute most perfect situation I could have asked for.  What better than to get up to 8 or 9 other perspectives on one piece of work?  I was honestly amazed at what a mish mosh of people we had.  And the feedback was really good. 

They choose ahead of time four people who will get critiqued and the only rule is to keep it to a maximum of 2500 words and you give it to everyone by secure email a week in advance.  Each person has to prepare their critique ahead of time and be ready to present.  They go around the table one by one saying both what they loved about your piece and what needs work.  There is an amazing level of respect from each person that I totally loved. 

I took the plunge at the end of the meeting.  It lasted two hours and fifteen minutes.  I offered to present in two weeks something I write to be critiqued.  I felt comfortable with how it works and I figured this would really give me an idea if this is something I want to continue.  It was just such an odd, surreal experience for me.  Completely out of my element yet touching in a way.  To be around such a completely different group of people who share a passion for writing and help each other along the way was just cool.  I wish you all could have been there.  I still don't 100% know how I feel about the whole thing.  I'm confused.  And for some reason I like it.

The big thing for me will end up being if I connect with someone from the group in the next meeting or two and whether the critique helps my writing.  In order to enjoy going to these things at some point I'm going to have to enjoy seeing someone because at my core I really am a people person and I can only fight it for so long.  Right now it's more like they are all in a fishbowl or a science experiment and I'm probably watching them just as much as they are watching me. 

And with that - it's much too late for me...time for bed!!!
Good night all!
Kristi      
   

14 comments:

  1. I would have pictured it more like you thought it would be. Maybe we both read too much fiction. I saw Souless on a lit agent's blog. Funny to see you got it, it sounded good. Let me know if you like it.

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  2. Of the various crit groups I've been a part of over the years, I was surprised to find that the ones with a widely varied membership--in terms of reading and writing interests--generated the best feedback.

    Some of the best criticism I ever received on my fiction was from a non-fiction writer who was not a big fan of fiction--but the guy's comments were spot on. So you never know!

    Great post, BTW. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. My first experience was awkward as well. I was by far the youngest in the group and they had so many exercises and requirements.

    And if you get bubbly and chatty when you're nervous, we'd get along just fine!

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  4. Are we like long lost twins or something? I, too, am shy and reserved (in person) too. : )

    Still, I too would have imagined the crit group to go like you "thought" it would. I'm not good in uncomfortable situations. I suck at them. LOL. That's why I'm so reluctant to join a crit group (in person). Online is so much different. : )


    Good luck on your writing and I hope the next meeting goes much better!

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  5. I just checked out Soulless from the library, but haven't started it yet (probably because I was already reading 2 and checked out 3 others...)

    Sorry the critique group didn't meet your vision, but hopefully it will be a benefit to you. And I totally get Jon Paul's comment. Some of our group's best advice comes from our one literary fiction writer who is not a fan of commercial fiction or anything paranormal/sci-fi related. At my first meeting, I was the youngest one by about 15 years, and it was a little awkward, but I latched on to one lady who is writing a series about a kid who thinks he's a half-vampire and she has turned out to be the best critique buddy I could ask for. Even invited me into her smaller group (which I like better than the guild). So you never know where this will lead you!

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  6. It's always nice to hear about the experience of others. Thanks for sharing. Too bad things didn't end up as you'd expected, but maybe they'll turn out all right in the end. Glad to see you're giving it a chance.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  7. Hey...I like you!

    I'm glad to hear your sticking with it. I find that most of the time my writing improves, its uncomfortable at first. But I also agree that its important to "click" with at least one other person in the group.

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  8. Wow, that sounds intimidating. Kudos for going and giving it a try. I hope, like you said, you find some people within the group to connect with and confide in. That's kind of what happened for me: I took a writing class and bonded with two other people in there. We started a small critique group. It's intimate enough we can really be blunt with each other. No niceties. Brutal, but good. I hope this group helps you, and good luck with your critique in two weeks!

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  9. Eva - That's actually why I ended up picking it up - I saw souless on Kristin Nelson's blog and was intrigued by it! I'll do a review if I ever get to it in my pile!!

    Jon Paul - I totally agree. That's why I'm going to try to stick it out - I think I'll get a wide range of helpful feedback and everyone was friendly, just odd. But then again, I'm odd.

    Diane - I have a feeling we would get along well!!!

    Kim - I think we should check our birth certificates because I get that feeling alot! LOL!

    Kristin - thanks again for the idea of joining a group! I had never thought about it before and I KNOW it will help my writing. Especially with all the different perspectives I'll be getting!

    Lynnette/DL Hammons - If nothing else, I'm not a "quitter". I have that going for me, right? I really do think it will help writing wise so it's worth another shot.

    Amy - Welcome!!! And you just described exactly what I hope will happen by me sticking with this group! I'll keep you posted!

    Seriously - meeting all the fellow bloggers is always the best part of my day! I love comments and I love connecting. Perhaps that was largely why I felt weird about last night. Everyone here rocks!

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  10. We do ours at someone's house. Very intimate that way. And I remember our first meetings being awkward. But after that, it gets so much better. So don't quit yet!

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  11. Finding a good fit in crit groups seems to be hit and miss. Like a nice pair of shoes, you might discover them in the first store you go into or it might take a while.

    Good for you for putting something of yours forth.

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  12. That scared me a little. :) But since it was the first time maybe it was nerves and it will be less stressful next time.

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  13. Hmmm...very different from what I would expect. It sounds more like a classroom setting. Perhaps it won't feel quite so stiff once you get to know each other? Although, it sounds like it will be helpful to you. I may just end up looking for a local critique group as well. Maybe.

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  14. Elana - I LOVE the idea of doing it as someone's house as opposed to meeting out at a bookstore...much more intimate and friendly that way. I'm hoping maybe I just need to give it some time...

    Elspeth - I'll let you know if putting something of mine out there works out! HA!

    Holly - I secretly hope that everyone else in the group is just introverted and will come out of their "shells" soon!

    Carol - I certainly hope so! Or maybe it will always be stiff and I'll be forced to focus on my writing. But what fun is that?

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