I'm a feedback junkie.
I love receiving critiques from other writers, literary professionals, and good readers as much as a large bar of dark chocolate.
I feed off other people's comments on my WIPs. Their thoughts, ideas, and criticisms inspire me in many ways often leading to a much better story.
One of the best decisions I ever made when I first started out on the journey to become a children's book writer was to create an online critique group with some like-minded individuals.
I'd read up on critique groups and heard many good stories about them... but also warnings. These warnings mainly focused on how critique groups fail. This is usually because there is 1) a lack of leadership, 2) bad, entitled, superior, or overly sensitive attitudes, 3) poor critiquing (such as back-patting without any meaningful comments on other members' work), 4) weak or non-existent support or sympathy for members going through tough times (in life or in writing).
With these things in mind, I wrote up a vision statement for the kind of critique group I wanted to be a part of. The following is an excerpt from that document, which I hope you'll find helpful if you ever plan to join or create a critique group:
Creativity in our ideas
Quality in our writing
Honesty in our critiques of each others’ works
Encouragement of our fellow members
Humility in our reception of critiques
Integrity in our dealings with each other
We are an online group of children's book writers dedicated to reading and discussing the unfinished works of our members in an encouraging and honest manner so that we can help each other write quality children's books which will spark the curiosity of our readers and fuel their imaginations.
Big Hairy Audacious Goals
We want to become one of the premiere online children’s book critique groups by helping our members to become not only published authors, but also to have successful writing careers.
Vivid Description of the Future
We will create children’s books that are beloved by young and old alike. Our members will enjoy successful publishing careers in the genre of children’s books from picture books to young adult fiction. “The Dreamlings” will be known throughout the children’s book writing and publishing community and be synonymous with creativity and quality in children’s book literature.
But that's the point of a vision statement and having Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHags rule!). Businesses use these to make successful corporate identities... why can't writers do the same? Now, I wrote this six and a half years ago and you know what? We might not all be published, but most of us have agents, some of us have books out there, and one of us is super awesome and successful.
We haven't quite become "one of the premiere online children's book critique groups", but we're doing well and I think it's because everyone who came into the group shared in this vision.
So, if you're thinking of joining a critique group, but aren't sure, I say
Just make sure you have a good sense of the attitude and vision of the group members. Don't be afraid of trying a few out... the first one might not be the right fit, but somewhere out there is the right group of fellow writers for you.
To end this post, I'd like to say:
to all my Dreamlings out there. You know who you are and I've been very blessed to be part of your writerly lives... and hope to continue to be part of them for many years to come.
Best Wishes to All,