When we last looked in on the Blog Chain, we were writing short stories about hearts. For this round, Mary has asked us about critique groups:
Are you in a critique group? If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group? How detailed are the critiques you receive and give? Do all members in you group write the same genre?
Michelle was the last person to post before me.
As several other people have done, I'm going to break up this topic into the individual questions as I respond.
Are you in a critique group?--Yes, I'm a member of the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. I joined back in 2003.
At what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?--The OWW works a little differently from other critique groups in that you post chapters on a website (it's password-protected; the author retains all rights.) and then other members are free to read and comment on your chapters. In theory, any other member of the workshop can critique anyone else's work, but what often happens is that over time you develop critting partnerships with several other people. In my most active period, I was following at least six or seven people at once. You can have up to three chapters posted at any time. I post mine when I feel I've done as much on them as I can. I write pretty cleanly to begin with, but I will go back and try to add description (my description tends to be sparse on the first pass), clear up any inconsistencies or awkward phrases, and fix any other potential problems I spot. My philosophy is that it would be wasting other's time to have them point out problems I'm already aware of. I want my critters to push me and my writing to a higher level than I can achieve on my own, so my writing has to be the best it can be from the start.
Other people who've already posted on this topic have said sometimes they give their crit partners "raw" writing to get some quick feedback about how well something works. I've seen other people on OWW do that too, though I tend to find that distracting to crit as I still want to make line comments. While I do see the value of brainstorming with crit partners, I don't do much of that myself, at least before they comment. Sometimes if I have a question about one of their comments, I will follow up with them for clarification or to ask if they think a particular idea will work better. Also, if I have a concern with a particular aspect of the chapter, I will ask for feedback on that when I post the chapter.
How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?--I can be a very nitpicky crit partner. I have done copy editing before, so I still do it as part of my regular critting. I feel I ought to point out as much as I can in a crit, since I don't know how much revising the author will do before submitting the work. Sometimes it can take me a couple of hours to copy edit a single chapter. Although I focus on "line edits," I always try to step back and look for larger issues as well. If the author has questions, I answer them. I always offer praise on some aspect of the work (it helps the medicine go down) and phrase my comments constructively.
The critiques I receive vary in level of detail -- and in how useful they are. Some people do line edits; others offer overall comments. No matter how I feel about what the person said, I e-mail them thank-yous if they've given me an e-mail address.
Do all members in you group write the same genre? -- By definition, the OWW is limited to science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. Some of my regular reviewers prefer fantasy; others, science fiction; and other people, like me, write both. (I'm not a horror fan--I get enough horror from the news--so I avoid it.) Only recently, as I've started to follow other blogs such as Miss Snark's First Victim, have I branched out and critted other genres. I have to admit it's easier to review genres I'm familiar with.
That covers all of the questions Mary had for us. If anyone would like to learn more about the OWW, please post questions in the comments. Otherwise, please visit Kat Harris's blog (she posts after me) or our newest member, Annie Louden!