Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adventures in finding critique partners

I have belonged to several writing groups.  The first one was a bunch of us who all signed up for Screenwriting 101.  We'd bring in our pages each week to class and then get people to read them out loud.  Several of the members of the class were actors, notably, one who was so good at cold reading that everybody wanted him to be their main character.

After the class ended, we kept going for a while.  But slowly, life took its toll and it dwindled down to two people - me and my friend David.  We kept meeting, kept writing.  Eventually, we stopped writing but kept up the friendship - even after he moved away to NYC.  We still meet up at ComiCon each year!

Next, I joined a writer's group that a co-worker recommended.  They are this huge organization with all kinds of sub-groups: scriptwriting, plotting the story, fiction writing.  I joined the fiction group.  Every month, we'd meet up and read 10 pages out loud.  Here I learned to critique quickly as after the pages were read, they'd go around and everybody had to say what they thought.  This is thinking on your feet because it's hard to not get caught up in the story and focus on the technique/structure.

Also, you learn to take criticism by example.  Every once in a while we'd get an angry writer who didn't take criticism well.  I learned from that as well.  Learned to be gentle in your words because you don't want to discourage people from continuing on.  Went to this group religiously for about a year and a half.  But nobody was writing YA fiction.  Everybody was focused on short stories.  And with only ten pages a month, well, after a year, I was still only a third of the way through my novel.  And I was getting the same comments all the time from people who didn't show up each month.

Thankfully, one of the ladies in the group decided to start an off-shot, a novel writing group.  This group did 30 pages a month so I was able to get more done.  I switched over to this group and have been at it for a year.  I just finished getting through the entire book.  Yay!  However, have the same problem in that the ladies of this group write mysteries.  I write YA.  I love them and will continue on, but I keep feeling that I'm needing someone who appreciates YA to read my stuff.

Are there no other YA writers out there?  Obviously not, since YA Fiction is abundant on the bookshelves of the remaining bookstores these days.  So I started my search for a YA partner or two.

I joined this group called scbwi: society of childrens book writers and illustrators.  They have this website "critique connections" where you can post messages.  I posted my "wanted" ad and in less than 24 hours I had over ten responses! 

Now it is kind of like being sent out on blind dates.  We're exchanging pages and providing reviews of each others works.  If we like, and if we write similar sorts of things, we'll make it official.  If we don't, we'll move on.

Wish me luck!

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