I’ve never been in a traditional critique group, but last year I signed up for a short-term one at our local college. The class met for four session, one each week, and we discussed the first twenty pages of each student’s novel of their choice. We wound up with 2 critiques per week, so there was a bit of work involved.
The appeal was that the class gave me feedback from a broad swath of readers – all ages, both male and female, writers of fiction and non-fiction. I was finished with the draft of my second book in the Imp series and hoped this would be a great opportunity to have fresh eyes give the novel a review. My hope was that other writers would be articulate enough to let me know any issues they had with the early part of the novel.
And, of course, there is the dreaded “series” conundrum. Is the recap too much? Does it read like an info-dump of what happened in the first novel? Is it too little? Are readers thrown unprepared into a new world and characters, drowning in references they don’t understand? What is critical to bring readers up to speed in the first few pages, and what can be sprinkled in throughout the latter parts of the novel?
I went into the critique group thinking to learn more about my own novel, but it was reading and giving feedback on everyone else’s work that really brought me the most value. I tend to be a rather forgiving reader, skimming over the rough spots and concentrating on what works well. Having to comment on these other works helped me to look closer, to realize that each word, each sentence provides a sense of unity to the flow and tone of the book.
Among the many novel excerpts I read a funny memoir, a promising quirky thriller, a rather convoluted dark drama, and a stream-of-consciousness psychological fiction. And I got feedback on Satan’s Sword– feedback that helped me tighten up the beginning, give my characters more emotion, and balance action with a slower paced descriptive scene. Not bad for a four-week class and a twenty page review!
I’m again taking the class, this time with many new authors participating. Personally, I like this type of critique group far more than the dedicated participant model. I love that each time I get a whole new perspective on my writing, and I love exploring and learning from another author’s work.
Others may work better with a set group that sees their novels and writing style as they evolve, but, for me, this was the best model. Maybe your local college has one, too. If not, perhaps you’re just the person to set one up!
Author’s Biography and Links:
Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in the northeast United States with her husband, three boys, and a Noah’s ark of four legged family members. Her urban fantasy novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. In addition to A Demon Bound, Satan’s Sword, and Elven Blood, she has also published a short story erotica series titled Naughty Mom. Connect with her on Twitter @debra_dunbar, on Facebook at debradunbarauthor, and on her website at http://debradunbar.com.
A Demon Bound: http://amzn.to/MK6nxD
Satan’s Sword: http://amzn.to/Tsi1Wr
Debra will be awarding an e-book copy of A DEMON BOUND (book 1 in the Imp Series) to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire with an ELVEN BLOOD book cover skin to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US ONLY). E-book copies of A Demon Bound and Satan’s Sword and a basket of awesome swag will be awarded to a randomly drawn host.
Sam may be the Iblis, but she is also an imp with a price on her head. The powerful demon Haagenti won’t rest until she’s dragged back to Hel for “punishment”. Sam knows she can’t face Haagenti and win, so when an Elf Lord offers to eliminate the demon in return for her help, Sam accepts. It’s a simple job – find and retrieve a half-breed monster dead or alive. But finding this demon/elf hybrid isn’t proving easy and time is running out.
The hiss of Wyatt’s shower penetrated through the fog of my pre-caffeinated brain. I was still sprawled on the bed, hidden under a heap of covers, wondering whether I could sneak in a few more minutes of sleep. It was rent day, and I was already late in making my collection rounds. Stretching, I poked my head from under the blanket and watched a small lizard cross the floor. It had a scorpion tail, pointed ears and crimson eyes that darted intelligently across the room. Those red eyes locked onto the bed just as I realized this wasn’t a lizard. It was a demon—and not the usual Low one either.
There was a flash, and I rolled across the bed and onto the floor just before the mattress sliced into two smoking sections. Unfortunately I was trapped in a tangle of sheets. Instinctively I converted my form, deconstructing my usual human one into basic atoms and re-assembling into a creature that was small and hard to kill.
I heard a muffled curse, and I felt the sheets snatched from above me. The demon was no longer a lizard; he was bipedal with furry, clawed legs and a scaled torso. Arms hung down past his knees, ending in sharp hooks. His head twisted and turned, forked tongue tasting the air as he searched for me.