Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Magic of Critique Partners

I can't believe I haven't peeked in on my blog for a month.  (That New Year's Resolution doesn't count because it was stolen from Neil Gaiman, who probably grumbled at Tweeters and Bloggers and Facebookers worldwide, "Get your own resolutions!")

Now that the spring semester has begun, I'm getting back to my writing schedule. Paris was lovely and relaxing and good for the soul, but it wasn't my quiet house in Plano where I'm most productive with fiction writing. In December, I did two things that have already started paying off.

First, I joined SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) because I wanted to understand the market for Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. I was a little overwhelmed by the immensity of this group. (It reminded me of the first time I attended the AWP conference in Chicago. I was a guppy in the Pacific Ocean.)

Second, I found a local (North Texas) Critique Partners group through SCBWI.  Not two minutes after I paid my dues to join SCBWI, I emailed the leader of the CP group and asked if I could join.  I haven't been a member of a CP group since I was in grad school, and frankly, I had no interest in joining one for the past 8 years.  But I'm in new literary territory now, and I realized last month how much I need a close, trustworthy community of MG and YA writers. But I was nervous, too.  What if they were wack?

They weren't! 

I lucked out. I've had a month to critique a few works from my CPs and they've responded to my first few chapters; my CPs rock! I'm so relieved that they understand the nature of critiques, the delicate balance of honesty, tact, and perspective. It doesn't hurt that they're a nice blend of writers: some agented, some with traditionally published books, some new writers.  We are seven in all, but because only about four of us are actively submitting at any one time, the critiques are not overwhelming.

I didn't realize how much a good group of CPs could rejuvenate my writerly soul. Now, I'm inspired to go back and tackle those final two chapters that have been haunting me.  They're not quite right, but with the feedback from my CPs, I know they'll shape up and turn into something stunning.

I don't know about other writers, but I find that I'm most productive when my plate is impossibly full.
from here

Like "Pancho's" full.

also from here
I'm all "Raise the Flag!" and pile on more projects the second I see plate peeking from beneath all the stuff I have to do. (To those of you who don't understand the Pancho phenomenon, forgive me.) I can write a college syllabus, reread Fitzgerald and Roland Barthes, help my son with his science project, work on my manuscript, query agents, and write this blog entry only when they all need to be done in the same week. I'm never this productive when I actually have a free week to do any one of these.

So here's to a New Year (imagine my raised champagne glass): may you always have enough on your plate to keep you active and hungry for more. May you find critique partners who have razor-sharp vision but gentle souls. May you create something that is beautiful to you, and dare to show it to others.



  1. I'm so glad you discovered such a great group, Lori. :) You've inspired me to get moving on my MG novel that's been sitting on the back burner for the last two months.

  2. Thanks, Ally! Can't wait to see what's cooking there.

  3. Olé, indeed! :) Although I wilt emotionally when my plate overflows, my work often benefits because I hyper-focus on completing the tasks. I'll be glad when I've trained my willpower to respond to smaller portion sizes. lol.

    Glad the group is such a nice fit!