So this is a week late. What can I say, I got sick and got a puppy. :)
The Fairwood Writers are a critique group that started about 25 or so years ago. They’re an invitation-only group that has changed membership a bit over the years but is still very active. They also run the writers workshop at Norwescon. I highly recommend submitting, it does not have an additional fee and it is a good way of toughening up your skin and getting critiques from professional writers and editors. You can submit novel excerpts or a short story.
Short stories are critiqued Round-Robin, with a mix of other writers as well as pros. Everyone reads everyone’s story prior to the critique and they go around the room commenting on what worked and what didn’t.
Novels are critiqued different. You go in, alone, to face a panel of four pros. You sit, as quietly as you can, while they each take turns giving you’re their critique. Then at the end, you can respond back and ask questions. It’s not easy to take but it is one of your best shots at finding out what published authors think of your work.
That’s not to say they’ll all agree, of course. If anything, it’s a bit heartening to see how some things that really bother some readers, get glossed over by another. It’s all just feedback, all just opinion. And you have to take it like that. But I’m skipping ahead a bit.
This year, my critiquers were: Rhiannon Held (moderating), Alma Alexander, Jak Koke and Peter Dennis Pautz. Each were great and gave very useful feedback, even those who didn’t care for my story*. We talked, or they talked and I listened, about the sample chapters and about the novel structure as a whole, as outlined in my synopsis. Some were focused on formatting and font** while others discussed character choices and worldbuilding. They pointed out teases that were actually annoying and made good suggestions to have Simon interact with machines even more.
All of my critiquers brought something useful to the table. I am very grateful to each and every one of them. Thank you, if you’re reading.
It isn’t easy getting critiqued but it is essential if you’re serious about becoming a professional writers. It really is valuable getting experienced writers, who don’t know you (or just met you, Hi Jak!), giving you the benefit of their opinion. You will find out which hooks worked. Where your character development or motivation is weak. You will find out if your character voice is strong. Most of all, you’ll find out if they would keep reading and that’s the ultimate question.
In the end, all the feedback is just that. Hard on the ears but it’s up to you to decide what you want to do about it. It is your story, not theirs. Now, if all four people love the same thing…you’re probably doing that write. If all of them hate something else…you’re probably doing it wrong. Take it all in, weigh it, digest it. I suggest not even looking at the notes for a while. Then, when it’s time to revise, all those words, of wisdom and of otherwise, will stand out and you can hear them without defensiveness.
I highly, highly, highly recommend this writers workshop to anyone who wants to take their story to the next level.
*or more accurately, Simon, my protagonist for The Mageborn Mechanic
** Really? That’s what’s going to be a hangup? I’m tempted to start using Comic Sans.