A few weeks ago I started taking a writing class with Valerie Hobbs. There are seven of us, including Val, in the class. We meet once a week in her Santa Barbara home to talk about writing, focus on what is important in our stories and critique each other’s works.
The critiquing scared me. I’ve always heard how beneficial it is to have a critique group, but I’ve never been part of one and wasn’t really sure how to find one. The idea of having near strangers read my work and tell me what was wrong with it sounded as terrifying as someone reading my diary over a loudspeaker. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
My turn came last week. I emailed everyone the first two chapter of my WIP a few days ahead of time and briefly considered not even going to class. What if they hated it? What if they told me my writing was terrible and my concept even worse? What if I was like one of those people on American Idol who think they can sing but actually sound like a cat falling off the Empire State Building?
I stressed out for nothing. My critique session was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced as a writer. Not only did I receive positive feedback for my writing (yay!), I also learned what areas were weak in the story. Because everyone has a different viewpoint, I found it interesting to see what people liked and didn’t like. My classmates also had some great suggestions for making readers care more about individual characters. Overall, I was very pleased with the suggestions and really grateful for such a positive first experience.
I think looking at everyone else’s manuscripts is helping me as a writer as well, because I’m learning to zero in on what’s working, what’s not working and why. And hopefully I can apply that knowledge in my own writing. I love hearing what other people notice in each piece, especially when it’s something I may not have realized on my own.
So, I’m on the bandwagon. I’ll probably still one-on-one manuscript reading with certain people, but I really love the group critique. I can’t wait for my next one!