Thursday, November 5, 2009


Critique groups, we’ve all been there (and if you haven’t, you’ve missed a time-honored, initiation ritual).

Go back in time to your first encounter with the “writing pros.” You’ve attended your first chapter meeting or spent a couple months on an email loop and now you’re filled with excitement over joining a group of writers honing their craft.

I need to qualify my opinions before I go any further - there is definitely a place in the life of a writer for critique groups. Many of them are very helpful. Some are not. . ..

Now, as I was saying, the critique group. While attending my very first meeting of my local RWA chapter, I found a group of romance writers who lived relatively close to me and met monthly, rotating meetings at the homes of the members. Each month we brought 10 pages of our best work, distributed copies to each member and then proceeded to read aloud our genius. No one interrupted, no one asked questions. At the end of the reading, the torture began. Journaling furiously, each of my “friends” wrote their opinions of my work and then the discussion began:

“I think your story needs to start here…”

“A bear wound never heal like that…”

“If you want to show luxury, forget the Caddy. Give them a Jag…”

And then, the sets of pages I’d handed out all came back to me scribbled over in various colors of ink that dripped off the pages like blood from a puncture wound. I’d come home devastated, avoiding the computer at all costs for at least a week. My husband grew to hate that time of the month. He hated seeing my enthusiasm crushed. He was ready to go fight for my honor.

To this day, I still love that man.

As I faithfully digested the comments, it only took me two years to realize most of my fellow writers never heard my story. They were too busy trying to show me how they would write it if it were theirs.

And after two more years, I woke up one day and realized I’d lost my voice. Not laryngitis. I’d lost my writing voice…my inner voice…the play of words and ideas that stamped my projects MINE.

Yep, a mere 6 years into my writing career, I was ready to pack it up, convinced none of my ideas were worth the dot matrix they were printed on, and I sure as shootin’ couldn’t express myself believably.

Then along came Connie.

Connie Rinehold is a multi-published author of romance novels. She read my entry in our local chapter’s contest and gave me a perfect score of 100 while the other two scores barely graced the mid-60s. She invited me to meet with her, to discuss my talent.

Yes, she called it talent.

As it turned out, my writing really was worthy of the scores I’d been receiving in contests, but what she saw in my writing only needed tweaking, a little direction and few more words here, a few less words there. We began meeting every couple weeks.

In that little office in her home, we discussed the elements of story, talked of character feelings, we explored “what ifs” with vigor. Through all the blood, sweat and tears of tearing apart my first book, Connie never wrote my book for me. She made me come up with the answers. We discussed my ideas and she made me think the threads through.

She’d asked my opinion of her drafts. We bounced ideas for her characters around the room. She wrote the most incredible books, and I marveled that she could use my ideas in any way, shape or form.

Critique groups are a wonderful concept as long as you keep the multiple opinions of your work in perspective. Don’t allow others to distill the part of you that makes your work unique. Look for fellow writers who have your best interests at heart and who want build you up so you can fix the potholes in your own yellow brick road.

I know I’m blessed. My fellow Seeker sisters watch out for me, as I them. We encourage, we celebrate, and yes, we smack down when appropriate. But we do it out of love. And that just ain’t something you come across every day.

I pray each and every one of you finds the person or persons who love you enough to be honest in their opinions of your work without ulterior motives.

I wish you all mentors with a capital M -- or in my case CR.

I’m a long way from that starry-eyed novice writer of fifteen years ago, but I’ve discovered what I want to be when I grow up. And I pray I do it with all the grace, dignity and generosity Connie Rinehold poured over me.

Now it’s time to share. How do you feel about critique groups? Has anyone looked beyond the surface to reveal the special in you? Have you dug out any diamonds in the rough?

Do tell!!

And make sure you include your email address!!

If one doesn't have a mentor, then while waiting for the real thing to come along, chocolate will have to do. There's a bag of to-die-for Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling squares just waiting to encourage someone on!

Winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition!!!



  1. Audra:

    Good mentoring words--thanks.

    No, I don't have a mentor or critique group. I'm lonely.

    Years ago I belonged to an RWA chapter and exchanged some critiques. They were painful and never really helped me--along the lines of what you described.

    I gave up writing for years. Now that I'm working at it again, I've made contact with a person who is going to meet with me next week. It's a long drive to get to her, but I'm hoping it works out well.


  2. Audra,

    I have tried numerous critique arrangements, mostly one-on-one exchanges, and have entered contests. (I'm still grateful for Ruthy's comments.)

    I think they had the right intentions but I didn't have the perspective to sort the wheat from the chaff. I couldn't protect my voice because I didn't recognize it myself. Many of them were as new as I was, the blind leading the blind.

    Just having others read my work had positive aspects, though.

    I know writers brainstorm together, but a lot of the time I can't get enthusiastic about plots described by other people.

    Then I joined a large RWA chapter about 60 miles away. One day the weather was bad and a member e-mailed that she was trying to come to the meeting. She lived in a town about 5 miles from my house!

    We're now meeting weekly and it's much more helpful than those drive-by critiques :) We have opposite strengths and weaknesses, which works out great.

    I can still use chocolate, though!

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  3. Great thoughts! I'm in a crit group that I love, yeah, there are a few times I scratch me head then toss out the advice because it doesn't make sense to MY story... but I've to recognize that stuff.

    I'd LOVE to have a mentor though, or even just a crit partner, to have that one-on-one spur you on, encouragement and prodding, the give-and-take you know? But for now, my crit group is working well for me.

    Love me some chocolate!

    krista @ kristaphillips . com


    The exact same thing happened to me. The person with the LOUDEST opinion in the group seemed to run roughshod over the opinion arena.

    My group read aloud and one evening as I was reading aloud...I stopped mid sentence.


    My voice.

    Had become.

    Her voice.

    That was the end for me.

  5. Thanks for the perspective on crit groups and mentors, Audra. It's good to hear how other writers look at them.

    I was part of an online crit group for about a year. Then we got too big (I think) and I was spending more time critting than actually writing. We fizzled out, partly because members had different needs. Learned a lot and still keep in touch with some of them. Two have published since then and another has her debut novel coming out next year, so that's been fun to watch.

    My local group has tried crit sessions before that didn't work very well. We write fiction and NF, some don't care to be critiqued, some have self pubbed and don't follow the 'rules' that I've learned. Plus I think we love each other too much and try too hard to spare feelings. That can get tricky.

    Some multi-pubbed authors have really encouraged me through contest entries, so that keeps me going. I want feedback and ideas and want to improve, but don't necessarily want someone rewriting individual sentences for me. I love the idea of having a mentor. Maybe someday God will bring one to me.

    Until then, chocolate is always a great writing partner. :-)

    leigh at leighdelozier dot com

  6. Oh this is one time I wish I wasn't a Seeker so I could win the chocolate. I love the kind with raspberries.

    Thanks Audra for sharing and how blessed you are to have Connie in your life.

    Ruthy was the author who inspired me. She was wonderful. My first inspie crit partner.

    But have to laugh at my very first crit experience. I was writing everything by hand. This was in the day before PC's And to save money I was using this dark blue, unlined stationary with no lines that I bought reams of at the Thrift Store.

    So I trot off to my first meeting soooooo excited to meet other writers, hand them my ten handwritten with pencil pages. Well we met at Spinoza's, a pizza joint that was dark. You can imagine. They were all very nice to inform me that I needed to type the pages, double spaced mind you. Man I was soooo green. I mean blue.

    Audra you made a great point. Don't let crit partners, contest judges or anyone take away your voice. That after all is what editors are looking for.
    Often they will make a suggestion. Be careful you don't just use their suggestion, but look at the problem and figure how to fix it yourself. The suggestion is meant to show the problem.

  7. Hi, Audra!!!
    I'm so sorry you had that bad experience with that critique group. I don't know why, but I never had that problem. When someone didn't know what they were talking about, I always just sort of knew it. LOL! I think maybe I was far enough along, and I'd had a great instructor in a course I took, and I'd already sold some short stories and an article, by the time I had critique partners. I guess I was pretty confident (probably too confident) in my writing by then. When someone said something and I thought they were off base, or their suggestion just didn't fit my story or my voice, I ignored it. But I had some very painful judge comments, and instances where one judge gave me a really high score and loved my entry, and another hated it! When judges do it, it seems even worse than when crit partners do it.

    Speaking of crit groups, I keep getting in them, and then the others in the group either stop writing or they just sort of fade away. I don't know, maybe it's me. Nobody sticks with me for long! But when I need someone, it seems like the right person always comes along. I love crit groups and partners. I value them very much, even if I don't accept all their suggestions. :-)

  8. Audra - These words are so timely for me. I share chapters with a fellow ACFWer, and she's been wonderful! I also recently joined a group with two local writers, and they've been helpful but I've found myself having to filter more. A couple times it's pushed me to wonder who I am, whether my writing is worthwhile at all. But once I filter it and toss out what doesn't make sense, they really do offer unique insights that my other CP doesn't.

    Oh, and I'm always interested in chocolate! :-)

    forgravebooks at gmail dot com

  9. Good morning everyone! It's a gorgeous morning here in Colorado with our high anticipated in the 70s! Snow last week; snow next week. Kinda feel like an oreo : )

    Soooo, I brought a platter of assorted deli fresh bagels and various fillings--kinda recreating the ol' oreo effect : )

    Helen, I'm sorry your critique group experience drove you away from writing. You say the critiques didn't help you, but they really did. They helped YOU recognize the voice inside of you. Sometimes we have to step back and step away from our task in order to figure out what we're doing.

    You took your time, evaluated your journey and are now back on the path of your dreams. Your one-on-one critiquing sounds promising. I'm praying for you!

  10. Audra,

    I've never had a good experience with critique groups. What I mean by that, is their feedback just wasn't helpful. A couple of people liked everything...wouldn't change it a bit. A couple just wanted to correct grammatical errors, like comma use, etc. Which is good in the final stages of the draft but not what I was after...I wanted content, plot, characterization and dialogue feedeback.

    Really I feel some of them were there to talk about being a writer NOT to be a writer. So after that experience I never tried another critique group, not in person or on line.


  11. Mornin' Cathy,

    I think it's so important to know yourself and your writing before laying your work as sacrifice for others.

    Large RWA chapters can give you overwhelming large critique groups. Some work fine, others not so much. I'm glad you found someone to share your work with. I like learning the personality of the person I'm critiquing with in order to translate their comments : )

  12. Krista, sounds like you have your writing confidence well grounded.

    Good for you!

    The key is to discern the comments. Once you do that, the drive-by swipes at your work remain only that.

  13. Tina, I so relate.

    One of our gals had a degree in journalism which of course made her know-all-tell-all-fix-all of our group.

    Talk about losing your voice. For a few months I wrote historical romance with scifi-fantasy tendencies. What a hoot!

  14. Mornin' Leigh,

    It doesn't help anyone if you spare their feelings and don't point out possible potholes in their story.

    With love and gentleness.

    Let's face it. Our dreams of getting published will never come to fruition if every negative comment we get, we take personally.

    Look at it. Think about it. Incorporate it or toss it.

    We've got the power to do that, you know...

  15. Great heads up advice on critique groups, Audra. How blessed you are to have a mentor like Connie!

    I've never been part of a critique group though our RWA chapter held some group sessions a couple times. I found the fresh eyes helpful.

    I'm fortunate to have Shirley Jump for a critique partner! She's not only a wonderful writer, she's a fantastic teacher of craft. We trust each other so know red ink on the page is to help, not to hinder.

    I brought coffee and yogurt and blueberries for the buffet.


  16. Sandra, LOL! The whole blue paper in a dark room thing! Ahh what we once were : )

    My very first crit meeting, I brought my 10 pages...single spaced! Very politely, the group told me dark ink, white paper, single sided, SINGLE SPACED!

    LOL, gotta be able to laugh at yourself : )

  17. Hmmm, Mel? Maybe if you schedule your crit meetings closer to your Saturday bath, folks might stop fading away from you : )


    Melanie, you're a smart girl. Sounds like you knew the writer you were before others tried to shape you. This is so important.

    I don't believe critique groups are out for malice. I think some just become overzealous. I've received some great advice and direction after mining out those nuggets.

    Very important point. Always think for yourself.

  18. Hi Sarah, what a great point. Always have your filter on when discussing your work with others.

    I'm glad you've connect with other writers that understand your target genre, too.

    Yep, I still have that historical, scifi, paranormal gem sitting in my drawer...

  19. Oh Rose, don't give up on feedback! Finding the right one is the tough part.

    You never know what you're going to glean from someone's comments. Truth be told, I think I learned more about writing by listening to the comments made about the other stories on the table. A light would go off and I'd see some flaw in my plot or character identical to the one others were discussing about someone else.

    All method are open for grabs on critique night : )

  20. Absolutely, Janet. I think that's one of the keys to great partnerships. Trust.

    I loved Connie's books. Her depth and characterization made me so eager to learn how to do the same for my characters.

    She wasn't threatened by me; I wasn't threatened by her.

    Trust. Works wonders.

    Mmm, blueberries and yogurt! Great breakfast for a gorgeous fall day!!

    Oh yeah, and COFFEE!! How did I forget.

    I love you, Janet : )

  21. Eek. I just found out that one of my books (NOT the one I emailed Mary and Julie about yesterday) is being taken to pub board this month! Pray for me, Seekers!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the book that's gone to committee twice already. I don't want to go back to the "pit of despair."

  22. I grabbed a handful of chocolate on the way out ;) Couldn't help myself they looked yummy!

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Connie sounds like a blessing!

    Novice here so have not had experience with a crit group, but would love to find a mentor one day!

    Is anyone doing the wrimo? Good luck if you are!

    Snow flurries over here does anyone want them?


  23. Oh! Oh! That's IT, exactly - "so busy showing how they could write"! In all honestly, I was guilty of that, too, when I first started learning. I've been blaming myself all these years for slaying groups left and right, when it was a combination of factors. I was fortunate through one group, however, to meet a special writing partner. And I developed a thick skin and discerning eye through groups.

  24. Melanie, Great news. Hang in there and of course there are prayers.

  25. Audra, I never joined a critique group within my own chapter, but I did develop some supportive CPs on-line.

    As for mentors, it feels like several people from my RWA chapter have filled that role and I'm appreciative (and happy).

    I would still be more happy with raspberry-filled chocolates. :-) wmussell[at]hotmail[dot]com.

  26. Good morning, Audra, provocative post! I started out with two fabulous crit partners -- an ACFW group and then another friend separately, and I cannot say enough about the direction/help that they provided to me in the beginning of my writing journey. Regrettably, I don't have crit partners now, but I do have pre-readers, non-writer types who steer me straight from a reader perspective.

    I think the reason I shy away from embarking on a critique-partner arrangement now is primarily because of time restraints AND because I have gotten burned once or twice by critiques I've paid for at conferences.

    For instance at one conference, I received a critique from a well-known author who I hadn't read yet (big mistake!), and one of the things she nailed me on was my lack of adjectives to describe inanimate objects. For instance, instead of just mentioning a paisley sofa, she wanted me to elaborate with "a blue, mauve and cream paisley sofa with solid burgundy pillows." I didn't necessary agree with her, but what the heck -- she was published and I was not, so I bought her book and went home.

    By the time I was done with her book, I was so turned off with her overuse of colors to describe everything -- sofas, lamps, the mailbox -- that I determined that her style was not my style, period. Critique partners can be an invaluable resource, but you're right -- the wrong ones can damage your confidence or change your voice. So I would say the key is to pray -- LONG AND HARD -- for the crit partner that God wants you to have, if any. Because if the relationship is, in fact, ordained by Him, whoa, baby -- there's nothing like it to improve our craft.


  27. Melanie!!! What wonderful news to start your day. I can learn a lot from people like you who have stayed faithful through the ups and downs. I'm praying for you!

    Audra -- you're exactly right. Encouragement is great, but a good critique shows love in a different way. :-) Our director wants to get a crit group started again, so we'll see if things are any different. I hope so, but am staying open to maybe finding a single CP instead of getting back in a group. All in God's sweet timing ...

  28. Melanie!!!

    I'm sooo praying for you, girlfriend!!

    Let's go, let's go, let's go

  29. I am still looking for a "real" writing buddy! My writing group lacks a little.

    However, last reading time a man jumped and squealed outoud when I read a 1935 setting where I put a car in PARK. He said there was no such thing on 1935 cars! Momentarily shocked and hurt, I quickly reminded him I was not alive in 1935 (and research did not tell me this) but I would change it. Smiles.

  30. Hi Kerri!

    A friend of mine once said she hated the word critique because it always took on a negative connotation. Of course. Critique=critical.

    So instead, we called it feedback group.

    Much easier to deal with : )

    Enjoy the snow flurries!! I'm adding hot chocolate to the buffet just for you!!

  31. Hi Lisa,

    Haven't we all imposed on others a bit of ourselves?? I've learned to ask *why* of situations in scenes to help me understand the author's perspective. Sometimes just having to explain it makes them see the holes in their own story.

    Thick skin is always good!!

  32. Audra, awesome post today.

    Crit groups can be such touchy things because they involve people and relationships and feelings.

    I've been parts of a few crit groups and some things were helpful, some things were not so helpful, and some things were downright wounding. Sadly, in every case, I shared in the blame and in the blessing.

    Hopefully, I've grown enough through the crit group process to recognize when someone (myself included) is stepping outside the boundaries, and when a crit group has run its course for me.

    And happily, I've got some great crit partners who accept me, warts and all, and really care that I become a better writer and a better person.

  33. I did a face to face critique group for about a year. Loved those ladies but I live a LONG way out in the country and I just couldn't drive in weekly so I tried monthly. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't helpful. The net affect seemed to be, I'd just go home and be stopped in my tracks.

    Trying to digest what I'd heard, and the critiques seemed to be aimed at trouble rather than encouragement....which is, I suppose, proper but I found it discouraging.

    Plus anything new I'd write, I'd feel the need to wait until I could go to critique group again.

    It just didn't work for me.

    So I found an on-line critique group through ACFW and it was wonderful. It doesn't work for everyone but those ladies were great, encouraging, their criticism was valid, I learned SO MUCH.

    I really give Christy Barritt, Suzanne Smykla Osborne and Nicole Cooper, my first online ACFW Critique group credit for teaching me what I needed to know to become a published author. And they are also the ones who hounded me until I attended my first conference.

    God bless them every one.

  34. Hi Audra:

    I think historically the mentoring system has been the best system to learn a complex skill. With this system you need a master who will let you express your own vision while still instilling the basic rules of the discipline.

    Critique groups are far less effective and sometimes detrimental to learning. Romance seems to be very big on critique groups while other genres seem much less receptive to the idea. For example, an entire mystery novel can hang on an ingenious never before used solution to a crime. As a writer would you really want to let that ‘key’ to your novel out to other writers?

    Critique groups tend to descend to the lowest common denominator. People give opinions who probably shouldn’t even be there. I’ve spent years in Toastmasters which is essentially a professional critique group. All members are called on to give critiques. Some give critiques when they really don’t know what they are talking about. (Giving critiques is part of the ongoing learning process.)

    These members do not want to look bad so they often repeat valid critiques that they have heard in past meetings about different speeches. This makes their evaluations doubly dangerous because they sound very well informed but they are inappropriate for the current speech the person is critiquing.

    When this happens it is not unusual for a knowledgeable Toastmaster to give a correct critique which contradicts the first one. Since both critiques sound valid, the speaker is stuck with conflicting advice. This is not an ideal learning situation.

    I’ve managed to talk to a few romance writers who are almost total recluses. They work at home, show no one their work, and deal one on one only with their editors. (You only get to see them at their rare book signing.)

    I wonder: what percentage of romance authors are recluses. Are they in the majority? Does anyone know if the solo route is more successful than the group path? One thing is for sure, you are not going to hear from the recluses.

    My feeling is that one good mentor is worth a hundred critique groups. But then, one good mentor may be almost impossible to find. It may be easier to find a soul mate.


    RUTH: The rest of the story: I told my wife about Derek Jeter being at bat and she said, “He’s hot.” She doesn’t know anything about baseball but she knows Jeter is hot. BTW, I wore my official Yankee Ball Cap, bought this year in the new Yankee stadium, just to send some luck to NY. It worked!!!! 27!

  35. Walt, it sounds like the waters are running smooth for you. You are blessed and I hope, enjoying it!!

    I like CP online. Almost allows me not to take comments personally : )

  36. Julie! I so remember purple prose!! I had a CP that really should have looked into Interior Design as a profession. Very lavish, very detailed.

    Oh and the weeping!! I didn't know a heroine could weep so much!

    LOL! Hmm, not my style, I guess.

  37. Oh, Bookie, you handled that with grace and dignity : )

    Proud of you!!

  38. Erica, I think you hit it perfectly. Know when you've outgrown a crit group. Yes, it happens, no fault of anyone's.

    By the time I met Connie, I think I'd received all the war wounds necessary to understand what I needed out feedback. Actually, if I hadn't been through years of *shaping* I probably wouldn't have realized what a gem I had in Connie. I had to learn to discern before I could learn to think.

  39. Mary, give those ladies a big swak from me for sending you to your first ACRW conference!

    Glad no one stomped on your style. No one writes Mary Connealy like you do!

  40. I'm in my third online critique group. I love this one. I gained a couple of good writing friends from the first group, but I wasn't really ready to submit my work, and there were too many submissions for me to keep up.

    The second, an ACFW group, was just getting started--and struggling with the demands on our time--when ACFW revamped its critique program. Our group disbanded.

    The ladies of my third group are the best! We're at different stages in our writing and need different things. We're flexible and accepting of that. We laugh, encourage, and yes, critique one another's writing. We submit our critiques to the author only. We probably miss out on the comments of others, but we also don't "sink to the lowest common denominator", each person's opinion being fresh. We counter that by having group discussions and chats online to talk about writing stuff and brainstorm.

    I think sometimes bad critique experiences result in part from a lack of communication. If critiques are focusing on things a writer doesn't want or need, or maybe seem too harsh, speak up rather than get frustrated and bow out. If a person's suggestion is blatantly wrong, follow-up with that person and share your knowledge. Or, even share why the suggestion might not have been wrong, but why it won't work for you. Help each other grow in the critique process as well as in their writing. It takes time and attention to develop a critique relationship. If writers are only looking for what they can get out of them, and not what they can give, the relationships are doomed to fail.

  41. Oh Audra, this is a great post with so many touched-on angles...

    Critique groups, partners, online, offline, hard copy, etc.

    My bossy, know-it-all nature made it tough to find someone local to work with. On top of that I was a workaholic writer... Who can keep up with that? Only someone as crazy or almost as crazy and retired.

    God bless Sandra, she grabbed me from FH&L obscurity on their critique partner list and the rest is history. I don't scare her (much as I try) and that's so good.


    Now I've developed a more finessing nature so I play better with others on occasion. Not regularly. So I don't try. And God bless Cathy for saying she still likes me AFTER reading my judge's remarks. Remarkable woman. :)

    What I didn't find in a local group was someone as focused on success, publication and production as I was, and that's an important match to find in a partner. That's why Sandra and I worked well together. Stubborn old goats who refuse to say die.

    The other thing is I'm not a bandwagon person, I try to see the big picture over time, and I love lots of different kinds of writing, so following rules that may change tomorrow was hard for me.

    So I didn't.

    Although I will gladly jump through editorial hoops because those guys and gals know their stuff, their line, their readership better than anyone else. And that's a big distinction from following someone's random advice regardless of their venue or platform.

    But you know what I think? And this might brand me unpopular, but I'll risk it...

    Without the pain of struggling your way in, I think we can become short-changed as good writers. If you succeed too soon, the temptation to wallow in mediocrity might become easy.

    I don't think you can afford "easy" in this biz and not become shark bait.

    Speaking of that, anyone want fish???


    Fried crisp and golden, chips alongside, and creamy, cool cole slaw to round it out.



  42. Audra: I hear you loud and clear. Even the comments from four judges can be so completely far apart. As I set in to judge three different contests between now and the end of January, I will keep your words in mind.

    The first critique group I ever joined was the best. We 'grew up' together. Though we've moved in different directions, we are still friends. I have never found another 'group' that jelled as well for me, but am blessed to have a wonderful partner now over the 'net. I'd still love to have the one-on-one you speak of. Perhaps one day.

    I wonder: what percentage of romance authors are recluses.

    GRIN. Me, too, Vince, because all I know is that there's one in St. Louis right now, typing this message to you! I like to joke that I'm a recluse with the misfortune of having an outgoing personality. BUT ... a recluse nonetheless. Kind of like Ruthy ... :)


  44. Vince:

    You're a smart guy married to a very smart woman.

    She's right.

    Jeter's totally hot.

    27 and counting, my man... :)

  45. Jules, there's a very good reason you and I get along.

    Or maybe a slew of 'em.

    Old bats with tough hides, big smiles and an amazing appreciation for God and romance.

    And chocolate.

    And wine in your case.

    But then that probably descibes most of us except the Camster and Cheryl.


    On the age part that is. The rest fits.

    But they're young enough to make us feel young just hanging with them. Learning the jargon.

    And they're stinkin' adorable. You can't be in a room with Camy and not laugh or talk to Cheryl and not feel her amazing spirit.

    But they're still young and I'm not sure I can forgive them that, LOL! Unwrinkled faces... Please. So over-rated.

    And have I mentioned that not only did the Yankees win last night, but that Jeter's hot.

    Oh, yes, I do believe Vince and I BOTH cited that. :)

  46. Audra,
    I miss having a critique group. I haven't been involved in one in about 4 years. My writing mentor started the group and it was one of the highlights of my month. We met the second saturday at her home or a local bookshop. After her death, three years ago this month, we tried meeting a few times but it wasn't the same. I am praying still for another mentor to come along. I know no one will ever be able to take her place, but the encouragement would help a lot. Every time I feel like quiting, I hear her voice urging me on (and telling me if I don't submit my query, she'll kill me ;)


  47. I like the idea of a critique group, but have never been a part of one.

    And mentors?
    Well, besides the ones I had to pay during classes :-) (like as part of the Journeyman Christian Writers Guild Course), I've only had bits and pieces of info. The mentors for these courses have been great, though, very encouraging and thoughful.

    Mary has been a fantastic encouragement, though not an official 'mentor' & so has Julie.

    I think it would be great to have a 'guide' on this writing path, someone like Gandalf for Frodo (maybe without the beard and propensity to have nasty orcs on his heels).

    You'll be in my prayers about the book - and congrats. Wow. That's really cool.

    So Audra,
    I guess my question is:
    How do you find 'the right' critique partner or group? I don't have loads of time to devote to critiqing a whole lot of other peoples' work, though I'm willing to do some and I guess most of them have to happen online, right?
    Sorry if these are basic, I-should-know-this questions, but evidently, I don't :-)

  48. Audra, good post.

    I can so relate to the ups and downs of critiques groups. I've been in a few that dispersed or peeople just stopped writing.

    I also have been through the whole thing of fighting to keep my voice and having to back out of writing for a time, because I felt like no one got me.

    I got myself another rejection today from Harvest House, so it left me thinking will there ever be anyone who truly gets me.

    But I'm in my whine time and hopefully that will pass soon.

    I have a critique partner now, she's good, but even we find ourselves busy and aren't exchanging as much.

    Having said all that, after all the groups disbanded on me, I wondered if I wasn't the cause of it.

    Maybe I'm one of those critiquers who try to make people write my voice... I don't think so, but it's still something to watch for because I know how awful it made me feel, and I don't want to leave anyone with that kind of pain.

    I enjoy what I learn here, have to remind myself that I don't have to do it all, especially if it's not me.

  49. Okay, I'm back. Hectic day at work.

    A soul mate. I like that, Vince. Hmm, I think my husband is as close as a soul mate as I'll ever find, and only reads Field and Stream. Yeah, well.

    Being a recluse is a dicey thing. I remember reading Kathleen Woodiwiss never showed her work to anyone, couldn't write if anyone was in the house and allowed only her editor to read her work. I love her work and wanted to be just like her when I got all big and famous.

    Funny thing. Apparently my work did sound a lot like hers and I did horrible in contests.

    Too passive.
    Too descriptive.
    Too ... too.

    Blew me away. Anyway, I think it's a rare person who can write on an island (no pun intended, LOL)

    Good, good points, Vince!

  50. Yes, Patricia I totally agree. Communication is soooo necessary in the critique group.

    And gentleness.

    And listening skills.

    Our RWA chapter actually had a critique/judging workshop. Unfortunately it was poorly attended cuz everyone thought they knew how to opine.

    I'm so glad you're having a great exprience!

    You go, girl!!

  51. Ruthy, your voice rings through in everything you write. Seriously. I love it.

    I appreciate your eye toward levity in critiquing. When words get too deep and ideas become heavy, you're a great one to just yell, *dirty 'em up!*

    Made me laugh. Yeah, I saw the depressing road I was headed down. Whew, glad you saved me through ridicule : )

    But seriously, some writers are too attached to their own prose. Hey, there are some personal ideas that make my story mine, but otherwise, if you can show me the error of my ways and help me understand them, I'll change my story for the better.

    Quick note: If an editor suggests you change something, just do it.

    This is a business folks. It is your job to assess suggestions and then make decisions in the best interest of your venture.

    Trust me, the Lord has probably blessed you with more words than you'll ever use. It's okay to change them around.

  52. Connie, sometimes we have to tough out times alone.

    Sorry you lost such a good group of supporters. It is frustrating to find a good fit for your writing and friendship.

    Good luck on all those contest entries. Ah, it is the season again, isn't it?

    Now remember, be honest but be nice : )

  53. Ha, Jen! Sounds like she left a very lasting impression on you : )

    You know, sometimes that's just the boost you need when your support group isn't around. The whole What Would Mentor Do works surprizingly well when we write ourselves into a corner.

    And, what greater honor can we show someone who's invested in our talent than to have them come to mind whenever a situation needing direction arises?

    I'm sorry over your loss, but I think you're doing her proud.

  54. I read this over 12 hours ago, when Helen's was the only comment--sure was eerie in here without everyone else! LoL This has been on my mind all day and I've been doing a lot of thinking about it. Thanks!

    The contests I entered this year were (for the most part) GREAT for giving me feedback and I was thrilled to have it. Most of the judges gave me feedback, a couple gave me a critique (in the negative sense) BUT even then they had some VERY valid points! (and I'm very thankful for them!)

    I've been praying about a crit group, knowing God will put one together... =]

  55. Pepper, I'm glad you've found support and encouragment in Mary and Julie and probably others along the way.

    A mentor more often than not, finds you. When Connie first approached me, I didn't trust very easily having just survived a piranha pit. But I talked it over with God, and Connie, bless her heart, didn't swallow me whole and spit out the bones like I thought she would.

    Like any other trust relationship, that trust must develope.

    They're out there.

  56. Hey everyone, remember! If you want in the chocolate drawing you must provide your email!!

    Very tasty!!

  57. Tina, so sorry about the R! 24 hour rule applies. Make sure you supply email address for the drawing!

    Time is such a premium, it's easy to give critiques and reviews a back seat. Take heart. You'll find your stride.

    Read the comments coming from a publishing house most of all. I have friends I write with, and love their suggestions and advice, but editors take precedence over all!

    Like a fine wine, sometimes our voices must mellow : )

    Small consulation, but getting an R means you're trying.

    Way to go, Tina!!

  58. Patty, I'm saying an extra special prayer for you. God will send you exactly what you need!

  59. Thanks, Audra!
    And here's my addy: patterly at gmail dot com LoL, cannot believe I forgot that! Especially when there's chocolate involved! LoL =]

  60. Thanks Audra,

    I thought about taking the twenty-four hours and spend some time pouting, but I decided to open the rejected manuscript and edit it some more so I can send it out again.

    my email is at

  61. Audra,
    Great subject. You're right. Critique partners can change your voice. It's a fine line, and it means finding the right cps.

    Darlene Buchholz and I critique. She's great. A Grammar Diva with a wonderful sense of character development. Anna Adams, a Super Romance author, is in the group as well. She finds holes I never notice. We meet when we need to brainstorm or need pages reviewed, like before we send out a new proposal. Often we just meet to talk about writing and any new tips or techniques we've heard about or learned. Sharing information and boucing ideas around is important, plus we have fun being together.

  62. I think a critique group works best if the members are not your close friends. I am still stinging from a "helpful comment" that a friend of mine made in front of our former reading group. We had all written short stories and she "zinged" me with a personal comment. Later, I joined another group of reader/writers whom I had never met before, and the experience was much more helpful. There was a freedom to speak more directly and the comments were not taken personally. I learned quite a bit and made some friends before moving on to a new group. Keep it fresh!
    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  63. Thank you for your great article. It holds many truths. Always keep writing and hold onto your dreams. I got that advise from a well known published writer. It is good advise for all.

  64. I have never been in a critique group - but I would like to try one. Thank you for this heads up on what to look for and what to protect. :)

  65. Debby, I love how you use your feedback time. I'd like to borrow Darlene sometime, if you don't mind : ) We talked at conference and I loved her ideas.

    You are a lucky lady : )

  66. Hi Virginia!

    You're so right about keeping crit partners maybe one or two levels from best friends. Makes it easier to be honest when friends might take it more personally than others.

  67. Hi Joanne,

    Critique groups DEFINITELY have a place in a writers' life!! Not many of us can craft masterpiece work without a couple smack downs : )

    Just make sure they have your best interest at heart.

  68. Kathy-

    I'm so on your words!! Never give up!

  69. Tina P--oh, no! I'm so sorry about Harvest House! Praying comfort to you.