I don’t like critique groups.
Not the idea of them, but the participation in one. I am a lousy critique-er and an equally lousy critique-ee. In face-to-face groups, when writers read their pages, I find myself drifting in and out of consciousness, hoping my inner child does not start making farting noises, and attempting to translate words that enter my brain sounding like blahblahblahyaddayaddablah.
These reactions aren’t born of arrogance, boredom or disrespectfulness. My ADD-self is a pitiful aural processor and can’t manage the dual task of listening and critiquing. I learned this about myself in pre-GPS days when people gave me oral directions, and I was lost after the first right turn.
I’ve tried online critique groups, but I found having more than three people providing feedback often confusing, sometimes contradictory, and always overwhelming. As someone critiquing the writing of
others in the group, I struggled with maintaining continuity with so many different pieces and voices and genres. And, at times, the challenge of keeping up with the group’s expectations of the number of critiques meant not devoting the attention to the piece I would otherwise want to provide.
My oldest daughter was my critique “partner” for my first novel; I volunteered her. She’s a paralegal by profession who can produce reams of legalese when necessary, which means she’s quick to recognize crap and issues like the character having brown eyes on page 67 and blue eyes on page 180.
I wish she still had the time to participate in chapter-by-chapter email volleyball because she was and is exactly who I need in a critique partner…someone who is relentless, not in shades of bitch or cruel, but in pushing me to be the best writer I can be.
I have writer-friends who help me with plotting and structure and characters and line edits. I don’t have someone or some two willing to push, pull and prod me into stronger writing. I’ve been planning a different direction for my writing for quite some time now, and in a few months (praying my husband will soon fire me), will be starting a new project. Having critique partners or a partner would be a bonus. I trust that, like finding a spouse and a great hair stylist, we’ll discover one another along the journey.
Image: Anna-Maria Crum and The Wild Writers
Christa Allan's newest novel, A Test of Faith, will release in March of 2014. You can track her down at www.christaallan.com(website is currently being rebuilt), Facebook, and Twitter.
She and her husband recently moved to New Orleans with their three neurotic cats. You can find her other novels here.