Friday, April 10, 2009

Blog Chain - Shreddage

Okay, this round's topic was chosen by the ever-fabulous Mary Lindsey. Here's her prompt:

Are you in a critique group? If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group? How detailed are the critiques you receive and give? Do all members in you group write the same genre?

I've been participating in crit groups for about 15 months. And I wrote a couple of posts for the QueryTracker blog on this topic (more on how to start and how to participate in crit groups). These questions are completely different, and I think, ones that every writer should answer and contemplate in their crit groups.

Whenever I post my work for critique, I think of it as going through the shredder. Sometimes I can't wait to see what's going to come out the other side, and sometimes I'm just plain scared. (Hey, I'm human, too.) Sometimes that shreddage can be scary--but it's almost always scary in a good way. (Not like those people up there. They're shredding lettuce. Yes. Lettuce. I guess it's uber-toxic lettuce because why else would they need the lab coats, rubber boots and face masks?? They take their shreddage seriously. As should your critters in your group. Man, this was a long parenthetical.) You need good shreddage to grow and stretch as a writer. But enough about that. Onto the questions!

1. Are you in a critique group?
Yes. More than one. I have a live crit group that I absolutely adore. I also own a forum at RallyStorm exclusively for YA authors. It's pretty much me and a dear friend, because we're not really sure about adding anyone else to the group and upsetting our uber-yen balance we've got goin' on. I love my fellow YA crit buddy. And I also have a precious group of friends who will read anything I want at any time. Their input is priceless.

2. At what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?
After I've looked at them so much my eyes are crossing, I can push apple+F and type in the exact line I'm looking for, and I'm about ready to select everything and hit delete. I believe that you should really look at your own stuff and make it as polished as possible BEFORE sending to crit buddies. There's nothing more annoying that trying to crit a first draft of someone else's writing.

Of course, one of the groups I'm in, we have to post 15 pages a week. Sometimes I'm not ready for that, but I do my best to get my pages out and pasted in a new document by Wednesday (I post on Friday). I look at them. Tweak. Change. Rewrite. Save. Thursday. Look again. Re-read. Tweak. Change. This only takes a few minutes. Friday. Email to self (can't post from a Mac, grumble). Read on PC (hey, it looks different). Tweak. Post. Read in post (different still). Tweak. Post.

I think this tweaking cycle is common among writers. (Please tell me it is, even if it's not...'kay?)

3. How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?
I think it depends. If the writing is strong, I usually just have "big picture" comments. Sure, I might have places where I think a stronger word would work better, or where the structure of the writing falls away. I'm a hugely character-driven reader, so I find that my critiques are geared toward the relationships in the story, how the characters are acting (or not acting), and making sure their dialog and actions are consistent throughout.

The crits I get vary from person to person. Because every person has something different they bring to the table. Literally. And that's what makes crit groups awesome. (Look at those bales of shredded paper. Isn't that...I don't even have a word for how super-stupendous that is. That's what my novel looks like after my crit group has laid their claws into it. And that's amazing too.)

4. Do all members in your group write the same genre?
No. My live group is varied. We have YA, historical fiction, romance, and LDS fiction. My online group varies too, from YA to MG to women's fiction to nonfiction to paranormal romance. I do have the YA group and that is obviously YA.

I don't necessarily think writing in the same genre is important. I think having knowledgeable, honest people is what really counts.

So don't fear the shredder. You need it. Crave it. Will be better for it. See what Abigail had to say and Terri will be up in this chain of madness tomorrow.


Michelle McLean said...

hehe, the picture of the stacks of shreddage is priceless!!! I also have a little mix of excitement and terror when I send my stuff to my crit buddies. I can't wait to see what they think...and at the same time, finding out what they think is a little nerve wracking too!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

That's some serious shredding!

Yes, I too tweak my stories to death before I let anyone else look at them.

Jenn Adams said...

The funny thing is, after you've tweaked it so much, you often think it is really awesome. But then Elana puts your stuff through the shredder and laughs maniacally as she hands it back to you. :o) Okay, the laughing maniacally is an overstatement. Kind of. (This was just last night, so it still stings a bit.) LOL

No, seriously, my chapter sooooo needed what she said about it. Thank you Elana! You seriously rock.

BTW, WV: moloodi. Not sure how to write anything clever about it, but I thought it was funny. Anyone else wanna have a crack at it? :o)

Oh, and P.S. about the toxic lettuce: Maybe it's the shredders that are toxic, and not the shreddees.

Janet said...

Interesting to hear of other critique groups - and expectations! I have a couple of critique partners in the romance genre field. And I've just joined a group of writers on a private blog/critique group. These writers vary in genre (fantasy, romance, YA) so I'm looking forward to the diversity.

I don't know if I could do the 15 pages a week - my tweaking, like Sandra, is repeated ad nauseum before I send it out there for viewing. But perhaps our new group will take on that challenge in the future, once we gel.

Anonymous said...

I love to see my work shredded. I want to make it better after all.


The Screaming Guppy said...

1. I've been in a number of crit groups over the years. Right now I'm in one, but I think it might be failing. (Means I'm looking for another! *winkwink*) I've found that doing one on one swaps with other writers for a full novel is really helpful.

2. When I'm happy with the story. I make my critters suffer through typos in most cases (for novels, longer projects). I'm much more picky about when I submit short fiction. Overall though, I'm game whenever in most cases. I'm not shy or hesitant to share. 9/10 times I lead off the group I'm in because everyone else is hesitant.
Now, when getting ready to submit for publication - that's a whole different animal. But a crit group? The point is for them to find mistakes and make suggestions. IMO you don't need to start with a perfect draft.

3. I give extremely detailed crits. 9/10 times I get back less than I give - with the exception of the recent novel swap I did with Tara Maya. Part of why I'm starting to like smaller groups or one on one swaps better. If there are two people only, no one is a over with so they can hear about their own stuff. (Like my last writing group, where someone hadn't finished reading my submission, so he asked if we could crit HIS instead. Ass.)

4. I've never had a group where everyone had the same genre either. I agree that it's not needed.

Fun post and great questions. Thanks Elana!

Unknown said...

I have found that whole ms. swaps are much better than chapters at a time. I use my "chapters" crit groups (3 of em!) to make sure that I keep writing (so I have something to submit) and get nit-picky comments on. I rely more on whole ms. swaps for the bigger picture ideas, and do the full swap after I've got it near-perfct polished.

Rebecca L Sutton said...

I'm just about to get going with my first writing group so this post was pefect timing! I'v noticed many debut books where authors give credit to their critique groups so I knew I had to give it a shot. Thanks for the awesome insight.

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

Oh Geez! And I thought the gloves, masks and lab coats were to protect the lettuce from finger crumbs and boogers.

Posting work for a critique group really is like sending it to the shredder.

I think this tweaking cycle is common among writers.

I wonder if this tweaking cycle ever ends. :-)

Great post! word verf is intered. I don't want to be buried!

Danyelle L. said...


That picture of lettuce shreddage is priceless!

I agree about the whole manuscript swaps rather than a chapter at a time. I have a goldfish memory, so it's harder to crit if there's a gap in between submissions.

PS I'm never going to look at the lettuce on my sandwich the same way again!

Anonymous said...

I love this post and I love my crit partner too!!! Your pics had me rolling on the floor 'cause, yanno...sometimes it is serious shreddage (always good though). And the tweaking thing...I don't think that ever ends. I can't image ever feeling like I am actually "done" with my mss...E.V.E.R :)

Annie Louden said...

You people who submit like 15 pages a week are so hardcore. I would die from the pressure and be seriously behind in no time.
Great post! You always make me smile.

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

Everybody else has already covered the basics of your fabulosity, so here's what I have to add:

The lettuce shredding people made me think "word salad," which is something people with schizophrenia do.

I love your extended metaphors. It's part of what makes Mindless Musings one of my favorite blogs!

My word is wirefu -- is that the best word EVER or what? Like Neo in the Matrix: "I know wirefu. Get ready to get your electronic ass kicked." :-D

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I love getting my stuff shredded. It's painful, but helps me grow! I'm going through this right now. Wow. It's hard. I keep telling myself I like it and that it'll pay off. Thanks for a good post to remind me that it will!

Anonymous said...

Nice post...great shreddage pics!

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