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First Time Meeting

Last week I blogged a little bit about my critique group, and some of the comments were quite thought provoking. One thing I was reminded of was the very first time I met with my critique group.

I’d discovered the ‘Edmonton Writers’ group on Facebook group and joined, mostly, to have my profile say I was a member of ‘Edmonton Writers’. Sad but true. I had no intention at all of using the forums, making friends or meeting with any of the people there. But I did. I don’t remember all the details, but I think I was eventually worn down by repeated event invitations to join the weekly critique group. Eventually I said I’d go.

They were meeting at a Second Cup downtown and Danica was away for the evening, so Jo and I went out for dinner and then made our way to Second Cup.

I was nervous. Really nervous. I had no idea what to expect, whether I’d like the people there or they’d like me. I didn’t know how many there would be, or what their meeting format was, but I went. I went, but I had a planned out. Jo was going to sit and read in a different section of the coffeeshop than the meeting was taking place in. If I needed/wanted to leave I could just use him as my excuse and bail. You know, “Well, this has been fun and I’m sorry to run out early but my husband is actually waiting for me. Maybe I’ll see you next week.”.

To make a long story short I didn’t use my out and Jo, wonderful husband that he is, sat and read for two hours while I hung out, listened to critiques and met the group. I met my best friend, BD, at that critique group meeting, and that group eventually evolved to be the one I meet with still, so to say that I’m glad I went would be a vast understatement.

We found out later when I confessed to the group that Jo had been my ‘out’ that at least one of the other members had also set up quick escape plans. Just in case. 🙂

Also, how awesome is Jo for hanging out for two hours just in case?

Critique Groups

Writing, as anyone who writes will tell you, is a solitary occupation (I find myself having a difficult time resisting making a ‘people who live in your mind’ joke here, so I’ll just confess that and keep going). Like any sub culture, we seek one another out, but I think writers may take it a step further than some others. We need interraction with people who understand us, or, I should say, I need interraction with people who understand me.

I surround myself with writers/editors/publishers online. I follow them on Twitter, I’m friends with them on Facebook, I read their blogs, I email them. They are my friends. I go to conventions to visit them and make new friends, and once a week, once a week I meet with my critique group.

Each Wednesday we meet to critique each other’s work and, possibly more important, to talk. I need that.

My critique group has evolved a bit over the years, but currently there are four of us. Myself, BD, Cindy and Lauren. We don’t all write the same genres, we don’t all like the same things, but we respect one another and we understand one another.

It’s fantastic to have them read my stuff and offer intelligent and informed opinions on it. They have dramatically affected my work. Stories have become vastly better because of suggestions or feedback they’ve given me. As a couple quick examples:

  • Lost and Found became twice as long as it originally was
  • Deadmonton became 1/3 as long as it originally was
  • The entire ending of Shadows was changed. For the better.
  • My zombie munchkin piece “…Oh My!” gained a character and got much tighter

Those are only a few examples. Unfortunately I can’t give anymore specific ones because mostly they critique my longer work, most of which hasn’t been published yet. Yet. The point is their feedback is invaluable. It has helped me become a stronger writer far faster than I ever could without them.

However, they are more than that. They are my friends. I can vent to them, share pain, bounce ideas. They understand the writing process, they get it because they’re right there with me. They help keep me motivated to write, to have something every week for them to critique. They are awesome.

If you write, do you have a critique group? If not, do you want one? My life wouldn’t be the same without mine.

P.S. I’ll be writing and sending out my newsletter later today 🙂