Critique groups are wonderful for some writers but not for me. I’ve had two books close to completion for over a year but I wanted to perfect them before I submitted them to an agent or a publisher so, at the top of my to do list was to get them critiqued in a group.
I submitted the paranormal to a crit group after I had polished it up and tweaked it all I could. From four authors I got four opposing opinions on how to open the story. Back to the drawing board I went but confusion quickly followed. I tried this and that and then ended up with a beginning so altered even I thought it sucked. One of the authors threw in some snarky comments that shot like arrows through my heart. I lost my enthusiasm for the project so I decided to remove myself from it and start something new.
I started writing on a time travel western at the turn of the century. It was a project I had been thinking about for some time and my outline was laid out so I felt comfortable getting into it. Once again, I submitted my first 30 pages to a different crit group. What I got back was a mixed bag. Some crit members agreed on some points so at least I had something I could work at and I did. But, once again, there were five opposing views on how the story should open. I tried working at the beginning, twisting it this way and that, adding what I had taken out and then adding it back in because of another opinion until self-doubt began to creep in. Maybe I wasn’t the writer I thought I was. This time I lost my love for the project altogether and it showed.
I stalled out. My creative enthusiasm drained away. I took a class in Procrastination and Writer’s Block. It helped some. My story ideas were flowing but getting anything outlined or moving past the first chapter failed. My characters were wooden and their motives weak. What was I going to do?
A friend told me to write from the heart. Well what does that mean? And then I figured it out. I had to start caring about my characters and what would become of them. I had to stop listening to other people—that means crit groups—and start hearing my own voice. I had to begin writing for the joy of it again and write what was important to me instead of over-analyzing what I wrote and wondering what other would think.
In the end, I found that a crit partner worked best for me—someone I knew and respected. A beta reader is also helpful. But critique groups are not for me. I know some of you use them and swear by them but not me. In fact, I think I would rather work entirely alone than to ever join a critique group and submit my work again.