Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Musings

Our first week has breezed by and what a kick-butt launch. The facebooking and tweets have been screaming through the internet. Thanks to all my girlfriends. I’m honored and humbled to be among you. Here’s to the Girlfriends Book Club. Long may we read, write, and kvetch.

In my welcome message, I mentioned we’d have weekend content. You can expect to read interviews and guest blogs soon.

Until then, I’ll share some relevant links and other musings with you so you can get in the habit of checking in with us on the weekends.

Critique Groups: Is Brutal Better?

What’s on my mind this week? Critique groups. I’ve belonged to one for over six years and I love it. Occasionally, though, everybody gets too cozy and the criticism becomes too tame, i.e. “I love this and it would be just perfect if you fixed the comma spice on page 12… but maybe I’m wrong.”

I’m human. When I hand over a manuscript for a critique, I secretly want people to gush. But when the compliments fly like confetti, I’m suspicious… Love fests (unless they come from the Pulitzer committee or Kirkus) aren’t going to help me.

I once had the perfect critiquer, and I HATED her.

She questioned every damn thing I wrote, and not in a nice way. In red ink, she’d scrawl a rash of cutting words like “TRITE” or CLICHÉ or SILLY all over my prose. Sometimes it felt like she was criticizing me instead of my words and every now and then (I’m embarrassed to admit this) I’d even cry.

In the end though, her feedback made me a much better writer. Now I love her and I wish she were still critiquing me. She didn’t let me get away with anything.

Do you have a critique group? Beta readers? How is that working for you? Tips on how to run one?


I learned about two click-worthy sites this week: Book Trib (   ) which collects some of the best book content from the web and also seems to have a pretty inexpensive and effective advertising program for authors and She Writes (  ) an online community for writers.
New Release

What new book is on your radar? I loved Kristina Riggles first novel “Real Life and Liars” so I’m looking forward to reading “The Life You’ve Imagined.” It’s not an easy book to describe but it’s about the difficult choices made by four women friends when it comes to love and family. Riggles is master at characterization and reminds me of Anne Tyler but with more plot. What new release are you looking forward to?

Thanks for stopping by,


  1. Karin, huge thanks for getting us off to such a great start! As far as beta readers (I don't have a formal critique group) I'm with you--I want hard questions, pointed comments. I always ask them to tell me what doesn't work, what doesn't ring true. Then, if they want to also add that they love it, that's fine too.

  2. My CP is like your perfect one - and she's on this loop with us. Stephanie Julian - she makes my books soooooo much better. And hers are fabulous.

  3. Karin,

    I just discovered this blog & I love it! Over the years I've had good & bad experiences with crit groups. I've learned how to ignore the not so helpful comments, I've learned how to walk away when the group isn't helpful and I've learned to truly appreciate the help I've received to become a better writer.

  4. I don't have a critique group, and I'm wondering if I should consider seeking one out. On the one hand, I think I might work better alone, but on the other, I'd love to have the feedback.

    I'm currently reading A Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore, a Southern Gothic.

  5. I was in a critique group for awhile early on in my writing career. It was me and two friends, and it eventually morphed into "lunch and a movie," which we still do. I think I work better if no one sees my manuscript until it's done. I already go back a million times to tweak. If I got feedback along the way, I'd probably never finish. So, if I'm done a wee bit early, I send to my agents for their insight. But often it goes straight to my editor, and then I bite my nails, awaiting her notes and hoping that she likes it!

  6. Karin, thank you so much for starting this blog! Only a week and already it's been so much fun!!

    Critique groups are such a hard thing! It's always difficult to hear people give really tough feedback on your work. I had a teacher once who used to say: constructive criticism is still criticism, so I always try to think of that when I'm the one giving feedback myself. There's always a nice way and a not-so-nice way to get your point across, so it's good to try to find the nice way.

  7. I've never belonged to a critique group. My personality is such that I need to work and critique myself totally solo. Once the manuscript is complete, I do have a tiny handful of people (both in and out of the publishing world) that read and make comments, but that's as far as I go.

  8. I've never belonged to a formal critique group but there have been times when I've participated in short term groups. I find it valuable to critique -- I learn a lot about my writing from that. Like others, compliments make me suspicious.

  9. I've never belonged to a critique group either, and I never show my work to anyone but my agent/editor, but I do have a very close writer friend with whom I endlessly discuss my writing-related worries, struggles, joys, ups and downs, nail-biting waits from agent and/or editor, triumphs, petty jealousies, good writing days--I can go on and on! I've found having that trusted ventee to be essential. :)

    There are so many books I'm looking forward to. Karin, I've read Kristina Riggle's new one and I loved it. Such complex, realistic characters. There was a point early on in the book where the mean father of one of the protagonists slams a door in anger, and I felt that slam in my bones--that's how good Kristina is.

    I'm looking forward to the new Jennifer Crusie, which I just ordered. Lots of great women's fiction coming!

  10. I'm looking foward to the new Crusie, too, Melissa. Looks like a new direction for her.

    Thanks for everyone's comments on the critique groups. It's funny. I can go to my critique meetings thinking I've got a great piece of writing and then, I 'll hear it read out loud by someone else and I just want to die, I think it's so bad. Usually though the piece falls somewhere in the middle.

  11. It's so interesting to read about different writers' experiences with critique groups. I wasn't one of those people who always knew she wanted to write - I sort of fell in love with (what was then called) Chick Lit and it coincided with a time in my life when I was jaded with my career path and looking to try new things. I began a friendship with three writers I met through the chick lit loop of RWA and eventually met them in person at the national conference. I can't believe it's been more than 6 years since then, and we've seen each other through angst, the 'call', rejections, agent worries, publication fads, you name it. The journey has been so much richer and more memorable with them around.

  12. I love critique groups. And I like hearing what people who don't like my writing have to say, b/c often they offer the most valuable insight. I actually love a harsh critic. Writing through harsh criticism makes me a stronger writer. Also, I think a lot of writers have problems knowing what feedback to take and what feedback to dismiss. Critique groups help to make that line clear, I think.