August 30, 2009

If your critique group always tells you the manuscript is perfect - RUN!

I often write about the importance of critique groups, and the valuable effect on one's writing. A SCBWI New Jersey group put their writerly heads together and blogged their Top 10 Tips For A Great Critique Group. The list included tips such as

Go positive before going negative - choose several good aspects of the manuscripts before showcasing the negatives. For example, great concept, distinct voice, puts the reader in the scene. No one likes to first hear a laundry list of what is wrong with the manuscript.

Show respect for other's work - realize that the heart/soul of a writer goes into their manuscript. It can be intimidating to release one's work into the hands of others. As we are all writers in a crit group, each person can empathize.

If your crit group is always telling you the manuscript is perfect - RUN! - This is my favorite tip. Even if you are J.K. Rowlings, there is always room for improvement in a first draft. As the writer, we become so wrapped in our own work that we often fail to see the big picture. This is especially true for rhyming picture books. We make the meter work for us. It's only when we give it to others that we see it in a new light. Realize that this is your first draft and when you develop a thick skin, you will thank your group. As I always tell my group, "I would much rather hear it from you than an editor."

To the Top Ten List, I would like to add A Sense of Humor. We have a lot of laughs in our group, and it makes us all look forward to meeting. Writing is a solitary pursuit, and full of rejection, but that doesn't mean we have to lose our humor. Our group laughs about our first drafts, making meter rhyme and the absurdity of picture books. We laugh at our ourselves, and the difficult pursuit we have chosen. A good laugh cements the bond between you all and eases the sting of how much work lies ahead.

I'm frequently asked how one writes a publishable picture book. My answer, always, is join a critique group. If you belong already, hooray! Take the top 10 list to your next meeting. If you don't belong, join or start a group. And make this Top Ten List - first on your list.

1 comment:

Joanne Fritz said...

Great post, Jeannine. I know my writing has improved by leaps and bounds since I joined a writing group.

And, yes, laughter is important.