Hitting Your Stride and Finding A Critique Group

I’ve been hard at work all week on this final installment, and can’t say enough how excited I am about where the story is taking me, and how the characters are handling their plot lines. It really is fun once you hit that stride, and your make believe comes to life and leads your where it needs to go, instead of the other way around. Getting to that point takes some practice, but above all, it takes patience and perseverance. It takes drumming your knuckles against your forehead for hours on end, brewing an extra cup of coffee, and holding yourself prisoner at your desk until you figure it out.

It’s kind of like one of those 3D picture books that you have to stare at a certain way until you can see the hidden image. Some people can glance at the page, and immediately have their eyes switch into 3D mode. Not me. I have to cross my eyes, squeeze my brain, and still only see fuzz. Usually I give up before I can figure it out.

I don’t give up with writing. I will wait for weeks for that image to appear when it comes to my books, if that’s what it takes. Last week I wrote my blog on writer’s block, because I was stuck in that place where I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on the image. This week, I’ve found my groove. Today I wrote 2,500 words. That’s a huge day for me!

And while I love writing, I’ve found another aspect of the craft I really enjoy as well—editing. Let me clarify—editing other people’s work, not mine. In the infancy of my writing career (yes, I know, it’s still a baby), I was invited to join a critique group with other writers in El Paso. Some of these folks had been writing for years, some had multiple published books, and some were just getting started, like me. I spent every Wednesday with these talented authors until I moved down to the Big Bend area, but the friendships, trust, and respect we developed, carried over. Last year I sent The Peace Keeper to my group for edits and suggestions, and they still send me their work to look over as well.

If you aren’t one of the lucky (and yes talented) authors who gets picked up by a major publishing house, I can’t stress enough the importance of having other people read your work, and by other people I mean quite a few, and more than just family members. Many times I’ll pick up a self-published book that could have been great if it had just been edited a little bit more. Sometimes it’s the grammar, sometimes it’s the continuity. My critique partner’s have helped me clean up both of those things. Even though my books go to a professional editor, they pass through at least six other people before they get to that point. And even then we still find errors that need to be addressed.

At first it was a terrifying thought to have other people read and judge my work. But, hello! I wanted to be an author. Might as well let a group of trustworthy friends/colleagues tell you what’s wrong before the entire world can.  If you don’t believe me on the importance of peer editing, see exhibit A:

Yes, my professional editors would have caught this, but one pair of eyes can’t catch every error in a 90,000-word manuscript. Not even five pairs of eyes can. And, that’s kind of an embarrassing one to let slip through the cracks!

I was very lucky to stumble upon my critique group, and am on the hunt again for a new group within my area. Right now I am reading Behind the Mask, by Janice Brooks, which will be available soon on Amazon. Jan is such a talented author, and has taught me so much about writing and editing. Trust me, fellow writers: you need a Jan. You need a Julia. And you need a Sarah. Yes for the grammar, the sentence structure, the reality checks, and the continuity, but also for the camaraderie. Because sharing your work with the world is scary, but there are people out there who understand your fears, and want to encourage and build you up.

Don’t go it alone. It is so much more fulfilling with a strong support team. And I promise you, we are out here looking to help!

What I’m reading: Behind the Mask by Janice Brooks, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Prey by Michael Creighton, and The History of the World in Bite-Sized Chunks by Emma Marriott (Instead of finishing some books I started two new ones. Oops!).

2017 Books I’ve Finished (2/30):

1) The Stand, Stephen King (This should count as three…)

2) UR, Stephen King (I’m going through a phase…)