A few blogposts ago I ranted about how there are folks out there who will convince you that paying an editor $2,000 or $3,000 to polish your work is a vital step before submitting to an agent. I don’t think you have to. A manuscript that you’ve gone through meticulously, that you have had others read, and you’ve heeded their advice, should be good enough to submit to an agent.
But there is another tool that you should make a part of your writing—the services of a good critique group. Some time ago I posted the criteria for a good critique group. As a refresher, here is a link to that post.
But attending a critique group is a two-way relationship. When you share your writing with a group, and benefit from it, you have responsibilities. A few of the more important ones:
Do not be defensive—A good critique group meets weekly. These folks take time out of their busy schedules to not only receive input on their writing, but to give constructive criticism on the writing of others. When someone makes an observation about your writing, listen. Don’t get defensive, even if you think they are wrong. If you have a defense for every observation about your writing, if you argue about every observation, after a while folks are going to get conditioned to this. They will make only the most cursory observations. You will not get the full benefit of the group. You don’t have to heed every piece of advice. I’ve even had members of the group write me notes to ignore someone else’s advice.
Attend regularly—Don’t come only when you have something to share with the group. This is selfish. Be a regular member. My critique group shares information about local writing classes and seminars, and often times I learn from listening to the work of other people, and the criticisms they receive. Some of the most useful writing tips I have received about writing have come from my critique group.
How can you find a critique group in your area? Start with the internet. I found a local writers’ club and attended one of their meetings and found they have such a group. You might also try the local library. I learn of critique groups all the time.
By the way, in my post linked in this article, I mention that our critique group meets at a local book store (hint: the only chain left). We were asked to leave there (they wanted more room for retail). Now we meet at a church. So far it hasn’t hampered anyone’s style of writing. There is still the occasional profanity.