The writers’ group I recently joined had its first critique night since I joined. The way this worked was that you uploaded a 2500-word maximum of something you wanted critiqued by members of the group. You needed to do this about a week before the meeting. Anyone who paid dues for the year was free to submit something. You didn’t have to submit a first chapter, but you needed to add an introduction if you submitted something that was not a first chapter to put it into context. There was neither pressure to submit anything, nor pressure not to submit anything. If you were willing to critique someone else’s work, you could email the leader of the group and state your preferences for what you wanted to critique. The group had an informative, entertaining and very well-done video available of a puppet telling you how to critique something. I listened to the puppet since this was to be my first experience with a critique group. The group leader would form the groups based on common interests as best he could.
I chose to submit a chapter from the middle of the novel that had some action involved. Since I have never written any action scenes, I wanted to test myself to see what I had done. I spent a good deal of time polishing my manuscript before submitting it. I volunteered to read things in the thriller and science fiction genres, but said I would read anything except poetry for which I have no talent whatsoever.
Within about four days of the meeting I received my reviewing assignment and spent time giving it a decent review. It was science fiction, and it was really good. Very intimidating! I wished I had written it. The submission was a first chapter of a novel at the conceptual stages, and it did everything a first chapter is supposed to do. I had to look pretty hard to find things that could be improved. I was pretty effusive with my praise. The chapter deserved it. I also tried to offer a few suggestions and found a few typos. I was assigned to a group of three people. Only one of them made a submission.
I was a bit intimidated by the process, since I had the sneaky feeling that I was probably the least experienced writer in the room. When the groups formed, I found out I was correct. The piece that I reviewed was from a science fiction writer who actually makes his living by writing. He had published about 17 novels on Amazon. He really knew what he was doing. The other member of the group was a full-time editor. I was out of my league.
The critique went well. I learned a lot in the process, and I have to say the other members of the group were very helpful and supportive. I could not have asked for more. Each had constructive comments, and I was surprised how different each of the participants saw the work.
All in all it was a very valuable experience. I felt supported and valued, which was probably the most important part of the process. I felt I had something to contribute to the group, and I felt like I could hold my own in a group of writers who had far more experience than myself.
If you are looking for a little friendly support and hoping to network a bit, look around your geographic area for a writing group. I was very surprised how many there were within a reasonable driving distance. I have learned a lot from this group in the short time I have been associated with them, and I hope to continue working with them. They are a group of very decent people with a lot of knowledge about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.