When I first started getting serious about my writing a few years back, I looked for a local critique group without success. I had given up. Then, Jeri Walker-Bickett wrote a post about critique groups and I knew what she had detailed out was exactly what I wanted. It rekindled my search and I hit up my facebook community to see if anyone had suggestions. Only one came up and the description on the website didn’t meet the specifications I was looking for (okay, so I’m picky).
After some internal debate about stepping on the toes of the local writers guild and encouragement from my friends, I decided to put things in motion. My goal: create an open community where writers of various experience and skill could join to share their work and gain honest and constructive feedback. I wanted it to be focused, friendly, and free to join. Others responded positively to the idea and last night, we had our first meeting.
Eight of us sat in a library meeting room with two people on the agenda to share their work, myself being the second of them. Holy cow, was I ever nervous! I broke out in a sweat, sank into my chair, and plastered on my usual “tell me anything and I’ll be okay with it” smile. It’s the type of smile that tends to grow the more nervous I get. My stomach twisted and gurgled and the little guy inside gave me a few “get ahold of yourself” kicks. (I’m pregnant in case that last line made absolutely no sense.)
I had given the group chapter 1 of This World Bites, Cera Chronicles Volume 1. The overall opinion was “Fun story. Helluva confusing start.” Many of the concepts which are explained in Thanmir War only receive a glossing-over in This World Bites, so those who hadn’t been exposed to my bigger work had no idea what elementals or guardians were. Plus my first chapter is rather a character dump with information that wasn’t pertinent to the plot. The group commented on how I broke the fourth wall, brought to light my infamous long-winded wordiness, and noted that I really gave no detail regarding the world the characters had just landed on. Plus I told information just to tell it (like Cera’s description and Fues’s obscure background) and the first chapter never touches upon why they are traveling to other worlds–doh! But they loved Cera’s personality and were entertained by what they read, which gave me warm-fuzzies.
All around, the experience was invigorating and awesome. I went home and tried to go to bed since I was super tired and was getting up at 4:30 AM, but ended up thinking for several hours instead, revising TWB in my head.
I had set up expectations and guidelines for the group with input from the other participants. I’ll be the first to admit that I broke my own rules. I mentally slapped myself for all the times I got off on a tangent (they don’t want to hear about your child’s speech therapy!). There were a couple of times where I shifted in my chair, wondering if I should actually answer the questions that sounded like were posed to me. Such as, “Why is Rin naked?” I managed to not answer that one, but I did make a note to indicate Rin was a full-blood elemental and that clothing was a human thing. I did answer “How do you pronounce Fues?” Like Fuse.
If you have the opportunity to participate in a live local group, I say do it, even if you are terrified. It is worth it.