Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Carilyn Anne, who offered to write a post for you guys about writing and critiquing communities. I think we can all learn a thing a two that will definitely help our writing grow down the road. So, anyway... Dreamers, meet Carilyn. Carilyn, meet the Dreamers.
Carilyn Anne is a writer, follower of Jesus, and homeschool graduate. She’s been writing from a young age, and has participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010. She spends time housecleaning, babysitting, chatting on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group, and occasionally watching TV shows (like Doctor Who, MasterChef, Top Shot, and Once Upon a Time) with her siblings and parents. She blogs over at The Writing Maiden. Her two main WIPs are “Flicker in the Night”, a historical fiction set during the Great Awakening, and “The Last Farm” which is a futuristic fiction.
To start off with, I’d like to make a statement of the obvious: Writing is hard. Say it with me. Writing. Is. Hard.
Sure, there are times when you’re high on inspiration, and your fingers can’t keep up with your brain. Or you may go for days on end thinking about your WIP and gaining inspiration for it from… everywhere. You incorporate little tidbits of dialogue that you overhear, or you change a character to incorporate a trait that you saw in a random stranger yesterday. Maybe you’re in the editing stage, and you’re molding the story to fit the one in your imagination better.
Whatever the case may be, at some point, you will most likely hit a speed bump that will slow you down or throw you off. During these times, it’s nice to have somebody to discuss things with, or feedback from someone else who has a fresher perspective on your story. You could have a ‘writing buddy’, but I don’t do that officially. What I do is kind of the same, but a little different. Let me explain.
There are two ways to get feedback or help, or encouragement, or whatever it is that you need.
Join a writer’s group. Just do it. Do it now. Preferably join Go Teen Writers, if you’re young (and you don’t HAVE to be a teenager – I’m 20). Also, you could join YA Writers Alumni, if you’ve graduated from highschool.
If you join a community of writers, and it’s an active enough community, then when you hit a speedbump or you run into a brick wall with your WIP, there will be someone there to listen to the problem you’re having and encourage you or give you advice. If you pick a good group (like GTW), they’ll be polite and sincere, and they’ll also be helpful. In this way, you can also get a sort-of-critique on your story idea. Would it work to have your MC do such-and-such? Is this realistic? How does this subplot sound? Get feedback on if your story idea even sounds like something people would want to read.
When you join a writers group, you may also find it fun and even beneficial to your own writing life, to join other conversations or reply to other people’s questions. If others help you, why not help them? In this way, writers can band together over a common way of life and help each other on a difficult journey. Writing isn’t easy, but especially if you have supporters, it can be very fun and rewarding. You may even make a few friends along the way (I have!).
Another way to get feedback on your story is by sending it out for critiques. Get a couple of people who are willing to take a look at your novel and tell you exactly what’s wrong with it. A fresh pair of eyes always helps (unless the critiquer is too vague).
This is different from a beta reader. A beta reader (in my mind) should read through your story and tell you their perspective on the storyline and characters. Depending on how in-depth they go, they should mention the character development and plot progression.
A critique can cover all of that, but also grammar, punctuation, and style. A good critiquer will not try to change your writing style, but they will try to help you grow as a writer by pointing out where sentences do not flow or descriptions are too vague.
I’ll give you a little tip – go all out. Ask them to point out every little thing they can find, both good and bad. A good critiquer will point out the good things too. But if they don’t mention anything good, take the hit and learn from what they said. Maybe your story just needs a lot of improvement.
Critiques are invaluable to the editing process. I recommend sending your novel a chapter at a time after you’ve edited at least once. Do not send out your first draft unless you need a very basic overall idea of if the storyline will work. If you do that, it’s more of the beta reader side of things. Don’t ever send your first draft out for an in-depth critique. Work on it first. Invest in editing it yourself.
Having even one chapter of your WIP critiqued by another writer will help you find errors in your other chapters. We tend to make the same mistakes over and over. A mistake that you make in Chapter 1 will likely pop up again later on, and you’ll know to look for it.
Your critiquers don’t have to be published authors. They can be unpublished authors like you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good at critiquing. Critiquing your novel will help them grow in their own writing, because they’ll see the mistakes you’re making, and they’ll start automatically looking for those mistakes and correcting them in their own writing. It’s a win-win situation.
If you want to be published, or even if you’re just curious as to if you write well or not, join a writer’s group, and get some people to read at least a chapter of your book. You won’t regret it.