My first and only crit group didn’t do a lot of critiquing.
We all met during Nanowrimo, and our initial encounters tended to be informal, chaotic, and a little weird – as is fitting for Nanowrimo season. We met weekly at the Barnes and Noble café, sometimes venturing to other locales for what we called write-ins,although these snack enhanced ‘work sessions’ resulted in verbal word counts a lot higher than what made it onto the page.
When November was over and Nanowrimo with it, some of us continued to meet. As you might expect, our little group was wildly disparate in terms of age, genre, and the degree of seriousness we gave to our writing. Our youngest member was still in high school. Our oldest member wasn’t giving a birthdate. Genres included vampire porn, thrillers, semi-autobiographical women’s fiction, and urban fantasy. We weren’t very organized and none of us really knew what we were doing.
It was good though. The group provided moral support, camaraderie, motivation, and most of all, accountability. If you had announced a goal at the last meeting, you didn’t want to show up and admit that you’d spent all your writing time watching TV or reading somebody else’s books. In some ways, it was more like a 12-step group for writers than anything else.
About six years ago I moved away and have never been part of a writing group since. I owe that group of people, big time. They helped me take my writing seriously. They motivated me to finish the novel I was writing in a much shorter time than the ten years my first novel took me (no joke). They helped me find the courage to dream bigger, write more, take risks.
Someday, I would like to be part of a group again, if I can find a good one. I’m cautious – some of my writer friends have been irreparably scarred by toxic groups and brutal criticism. I’m also too busy just now to make it to a regularly scheduled meeting, even a writing one. In the meantime, I have a marvelous group of supportive online writer friends. Some of us read for each other, some of us just provide moral support and enthusiastic cheerleading. Although I have regular readers and people I regularly read for, I don’t seem to have that arrangement some writers have known as a “crit partner.” Again, maybe someday, if the stars line up just right.
In the meantime, I’m getting by just fine, with a lot of help from my friends.