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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sisters of the Moon - My Critique Groups

Yesterday Theresa talked about writing friends. We writers know that some of our best writing friends are our critique partners. I'm lucky to have TWO wonderful critique groups, my Sisters of the Moon and my "Writers Group"

My Writers Group includes my first writing friends. Julie and I met in 1995 in a Creative Writing class at our local community college. After the class ended we formed a small group, not even knowing enough to call it a critique group. Helen joined shortly after. I'd known Helen before because our husbands are coworkers. Everyone else quit and later Helen, Julie, and I added Virginia, another of my husband's coworkers. Together we all joined RWA and Washington Romance Writers. Gradually I became the only one writing regularly (although Julie is writing now and Helen plans to start again) so all the focus was on me! These ladies are skilled writers and widely-read readers. Helen is a professional editor; Virginia, a librarian. They are great editors, very good with words, very good at knowing what in a story works for them and what doesn't, and are good with history. I treasure them.

We are friends who do other things together sometimes, like attend craft fairs, attend the same parties, go to the movies. Every Christmas we wear hats and go out to lunch, as we're pictured here, left to right: Virginia, me, Helen, Julie

Much as I loved my Writers Group, I felt I needed help to push me from unpublished to published. The more I learned about the romance publishing business, the more I understood it was a business. I decided I needed a critique group with a specific focus on being published. I eventually found the perfect group of two published, one unpublished, writers, all writing series romance, which I was targeting at the time. I was invited into the critique group of (left to right in the photo below) Darlene Gardner, (me), Karen Anders, and Lisa Dyson.

One of the original members named the group Sisters of the Moon because of the quote:
Reach for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.

I joined the group around 1999. Darlene and Karen had both been published by Intimate Moments but were having difficulty selling again. So together, we were all trying to figure out how to break in. And we were all very serious about it. It didn't take long for Darlene to sell again and to find a home at Superromance. Karen broke back into Blaze. I decided to switch to Regency Historicals and sold to Mills & Boon. Lisa has come very close. First to Duets, but the line folded, then to Everlasting, but the line folded. She's sooooo close! Darlene is very smart about what makes a good romance, the elements of story and the business of romance writing. Lisa is a master at discovering inconsistencies or illogical elements. Karen taught me tons about sexual tension and the crafting of a love scene. (see her blog on the subject)

Two years ago, Karen moved to North Carolina and another friend, Elizabeth Holcombe, joined us before her craft business took off like hot cakes. So now it is just Darlene, Lisa, and me, but we are very proud of our skills and know we make each other's work better.

Both my Sisters of the Moon and my Writers Group have helped me hone my writing skills, learn what makes a good story, learn what makes a marketable story, and learn how to sell it. I credit them all with my writing success. They were there for the manuscript that won the Golden Heart and became my first book, and for the one that won the RITA. Most of all, they are there to support me; to celebrate my successes and lament my disappointments.

Each of my critique groups meets about every other week and each read before the meeting. We email our work ahead of time.

Do you have a critique group? How does yours work?
Do they help you land among the stars?
How does yours work?

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At 8:32 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I met my critique partner through a critique group we formed after the Avon FanLit event three years ago. Eventually the group drifted apart although we do still stay in touch, but my CP and I have been critiquing each other steadily for the past two years and it definitely works. She is a great editor with a quick eye who is unafraid to drop the hammer on me if I need it.

My local critique group formed through our little local bookstore which has since closed. The group, however, is going strong. We cover all genres and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. We meet once a month and critique each others work.

One of my other CP's I also met through FanLit and she and I have been swapping pages the entire three years. We have recently joined my CP and two of the girls from my local group to form an online critique group with the goal of each person posting two chapters a month to be critiqued by the entire crew.

I think in addition to the great help my groups have been to my writing they have also been a great support system and kept me going when I wanted to throw in the towel!

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Christine said...

I'm in between Critique Groups. I had a good one in Fairfax with my two main CPs. Unfortunately, I moved so now we can't meet in person. However, we email stuff back and forth. One is super with queries and reading the MS through and the other is awesome with facts about the business of writing, agents and fine tuning the dreaded synopsis. I found a new person here to meet and challenge each other to reach our personal writing goals so that gives me a great accountability partner.

I hope to expand on my base here. But for now, I'm happy with my connections. The local chapters are awesome and provide a lot of support to the group as a whole.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

My first critique group was The Pregnant Pigs. We emailed work, and met twice a month to discuss them live. We've drifted apart due to moves, differences in genres, goals--but I'm still in touch with them all, and they were the ones who insisted I start submitting instead of just writing.

Right now, I've got an on-line group, and it's different in that we're international and have both males and females. Each brings a totally different viewpoint to the work.

What I'd like right now, though, is a live brainstorming group. I need the immediate give and take to refine ideas until they're a plot.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I think there are many versions of a great critique group, as you, Louisa and Christine, attest.

I also have an extremely supportive on line group called All of Us. We used to be a combination of US and Australian writers, but now I'm the lone American. These ladies are among my closest friends, and some I've never met in person! They would read for me and I for them, but because I have so many readers, I rarely need them for anything more than support.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I think readers are the best. I have a sister who reads everything I write. I haven't been involved in a critique group in years. Caroline Fyffe and I will brainstorm together every once in a while, but that's about it. I don't need anyone to push me to write, so right now I feel like my time is best used writing. I guess my agent is my reader now!

Your groups sound wonderful, Diane! You guys have been together for a long time! How wonderful to have all that creative energy focused on your writing alone! That sounds like heaven. :)

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Judy said...

I have a few friends who read what I write, but I don't think it actually qualifies as a critique group. They do tell me what they like and what they'd change (if I ask). Having read your post, Diane, I'm thinking I need to look into a "business" type of critique group.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Judy, I think a good critique group is a wonderful thing! It should energize you but never never discourage you. That's my rule about critique groups.


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