Why Critique Groups Rock – First May #writemotivation Check In

It’s been an interesting first week of May #writemotivation, very up and down in the emotional department. I received my third blog award, hooray! (Separate post on this forthcoming.) I heard back from an agent on my manuscript. While she thought I had a great concept and strong opening, she didn’t fall in love with it, so it was a pass.  Enter a two day depression, followed by extensive query revising. The week ended on a very high note Saturday evening when I received a call from fellow critique group members Stephanie Theban and Sharon Martin informing me that my entry for the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. annual contest won first place in the YA category. (You can see a list of the winners on their website. I’m in category 10.) Excited, ecstatic, overwhelmed – all completely inadequate words to describe my emotional state at the time. (I would like to personally thank Sharon for entering in the picture book category this year, otherwise I’m afraid I would have ended up in second place as she has a spectacular YA novel she’s working on that would have kicked my butt.) The even better news was that Stephanie and Sharon had both won first place in their categories as well.  Why is their success even better news? Since I’ve had a hand in shaping these manuscripts, I feel a sense of ownership – like a proud aunt. Any success they receive, makes me so happy.

This got me to thinking about how important my critique group is to me. Before joining this critique group, I was flailing along, writing 3000 word picture books (yeah, that’s bad) and having no idea if what I was writing was any good. Was I even close to the mark? I knew my family liked my work , but that was like me sticking my grade school drawings on the fridge and them calling me the next Picasso.  None of my family were going to say I sucked.

As a writer, it’s so important to have others read your work and then listen to their honest feedback without defensiveness. I know that when I’m revising and revising and revising, I reach a saturation point where I can no longer tell if what I’ve got on the page makes sense to anyone but me. I need a more objective eye to catch the dumb mistakes, ask the hard questions, encourage me, and give me ideas for making those stubborn scenes actually work. I’ve also found that the more I critique the work of others, the better I’m able to recognize my own mistakes and edit myself. It’s a win-win scenario.

I also know that my contest entry would not have won if those fantastic ladies hadn’t ripped my earlier chapters to pieces, painstakingly dissecting every word, in order to help me improve. That’s what I needed. That and the unending support they all give to me has helped me continue on my journey to be a successful writer. I would have quit a long time ago without their encouragement. Our group has grown up together, from inexperienced newbies to polished writers on the cusp of getting published. We’ve been in the trenches together, slugging it out and finding our bearings in this crazy world of publishing. So, thank you Sharon, Stephanie, Marilyn and Barbara for hanging in there with me and always making me work harder. I hope to see all of your names in print soon.

As part of my #writemotivation duties (read more about this in my earlier post here.), here are my May goals along with any progress I’ve made:

1. Revise the query for my completed YA manuscript until it’s tight enough to bounce a quarter off the sucker. Made some progress here. I’m far enough along that I’m starting on goal #2.

2. Research prospective agents to whom I want to submit my completed YA manuscript. I signed up for the free version of Query Tracker here and created my preliminary agent list. I’ve done a brief overview of all agents on the list and a few detailed diggings  into their souls to see if they were a good match for me. Query Tracker will help me keep up with all of my submissions. If you haven’t done so already, check out their site.

3. Once items one and two have been successfully achieved, submit to at least three agents at a time. I successfully submitted to three agents so far, even though I’m not technically done with #s 1&2.

4. Get cracking on the next YA manuscript I have planned so I don’t check my inbox every thirty minutes awaiting responses to my submissions. Haven’t started working on this, yet. This and finishing up #1 are my main goals for this week.

So how are my fellow #writemotivation pals doing? Need any encouragement? Having a great time so far? Remember to head on over to Twitter and chat with us at hashtag writemotivation. I’ve also finished updating my new page, What I’m Reading, so feel free to stop by and comment.

12 thoughts on “Why Critique Groups Rock – First May #writemotivation Check In

  1. Congratulations on the award–pretty cool.

    I’ve learned this last year how valuable critiquer/betas. I’m still in the process of cultivating those relationships, but the people I’m hooked up with so far have been great.

    Off to read your What I’m reading page now.

  2. Wow! You really did have an up and down week. Writing is certainly a roller coaster ride. I like to say my mood is inversely proportional to my Amazon Ranking.

    Bottle up that awesome feeling from winning an award (congrats!!!) and remember it when you get a pass from an agent. (Wishing you success on that agent hunt!)

    1. thanks so much. i’m trying to remember that rejections are all part of the process and personal rejections are better than form letters. any little bit of sunshine i can find, i’m hanging on to it.

  3. YAY for winning! *throws confetti and cookies*

    So glad you have an awesome crit group! And one who isn’t afraid to tell the truth (in a tactful and helpful way) That is so necessary for a writer to progress and get better. 🙂

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