Free Advice

Free is always good, right? Well, yes and no. When I’m talking free advice, I’m speaking of free advice about your manuscript. Yes, you could pay for advice out there from freelance editors and so called ‘book-doctors’. This topic is about free advice you can get from fellow writers. It can be good and help you grow or it can be bad and stifle your writing life. I’m talking about critique groups.

A good critique group is worth their weight in gold. Literally. I had a critique group with three other serious writers that when I moved was the hardest thing to give up. We started out meeting twice a month but when that got a little too much for all of our hectic lives, we cut it back to once a month and it was beautiful for all of us. We were all basically in about the same level of writing and all of us grew with the experience. Two of us are now published and another one would be if she buckled down and finished that manuscript (you know who you are, missy).

But before this gold group got together, I went through several other bad groups. One was a group of beginning writers (I was too at the time) but all they wanted to do was drink coffee and gossip. I quit that group fast. Another group seemed to be good. All serious beginning to growing writers and we critiqued our work when we got together. But. Yes, you knew there was a but coming. One of the writers, a really good one too, was a control freak and when she suggested a change felt there was no room for discussion that it was correct and demanded to see revisions at the next meeting. She even went so far as to rewrite one of the other writer’s scenes and totally destroyed that writer’s voice. It took a little longer but I finally left that group too. After a couple of more trials, I stumbled into a serious writer, who along with my friend who has trouble finishing her manuscripts, we formed the perfect group. We added a fourth later and never looked back.

All of us had different strengths and weaknesses. And they worked in harmony and all of us grew as writers. I wouldn’t be were I am now without the aid and support of this group of tiny writers. I have since then thanked them over and over for their help.

Each month we worked in rotation of which of our manuscripts we worked on. Sometimes we even just brain stormed about an issue. And in the ensuring four years we became fast friends. To show you that there is no special type of person that is required in a group… One of us has been in the writing game the longest and is an entrepreneur who owns her own business. She writes in the paranormal genre. One is a displaced university professor displaced to my former home town after Katrina. She writes in the fantasy/urban fantasy genre. One is a police detective. He writes in the science fiction/fantasy genre. I also converted him to a police procedural writer when he came up with a great idea for a mystery. Since I had no time to write it, I suggested he give it a try. He did and now he is published in that genre. And then me, a stay at home mom who writes mysteries. After I moved I cannot find that perfect combination again. I so miss you guys… Cheryl, Ruth and Ray

In the next blog I will give my rules for a perfect critique group. Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and an Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC

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