Note from Brooke: Today’s post is from Rose Wachowski, group leader of Novel Review, a small critique group of novelists here on Inked Voices. Thank you, Rose!
We’ve all been there. You join a new group, excited, motivated. This will be the one. The people who will toil with you to improve your writing. You introduce yourself and wait. Hours. Days. A week. Nothing but crickets. Finally, a small chirp. “Oh hi. Haven’t been online in a while. Welcome.”
Not the overwhelming embrace you were looking for, but it doesn’t matter. You’re here to write. You want to be a good group member, so you read other submissions first and dig deep for meaningful comments. You spend hours and submit the critiques. Were they too harsh? Not harsh enough? Or worse yet, somehow, wrong?
Now, you take your turn. You’ve spell-checked your submission, grammar checked it, printed it out and read it to your dog. You’re proud of it. Almost tentatively, you press “Post.”
You check hourly, then daily. The critique period nears the end. Your first critique comes in and your precious baby is a colored mess of comments. That’s okay. That’s why you’re here. You dive in. Every comment is negative. No indication the reader liked any part of what you wrote.
Bing. Email informs you another critique is ready. You brace yourself. This person has left a single comment in the General Description. “Good, I guess. Not really a genre I enjoy. There’s a few places where the pacing got slow and you need to amp up your tension.”
You head for the Review section to follow up. “A few places? Any hints?” For days, your questions go unanswered. Then, “I don’t remember. Things are a bit busy now. I’ll try to be more specific next time.”
Next time? There won’t be a next time.
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Let’s try again…
As a new member, you check out the group expectations before requesting an invite. You consider the demands of your life and the size of the group. This is important to you, so you’ll make the time to complete critiques and stay active in discussions. You request an invite.
You join the new group. Within the first day, the group leader has welcomed you. They introduce themselves and give you a quick blurb about their work in progress. You are pointed to the Files area where you find Critique Guidelines, a list of Writing Reference books, and a Synopsis from every member. Within the first few days, every member has taken time to welcome you.
Show, Don’t Tell
You were searching for an active group, so you’re going to show this by participating. Inked Voices provides mechanisms for group discussions and individual messages. Your new group uses these tools regularly. Instead of Facebook, Texting, or a game of Candy Crush, you read the blog and poke around in the forums. A group member has taken advantage of one of the free lectures and they share what they’ve learned.
Since discussions are common in this group, you find it easier to post one yourself. You ran across a great tip on how to keep motivated during the busy summer months, so you post a summary and a link to the article. The rest of the group jumps in to share what keeps them motivated. On their way to work, one member passed a souped-up pickup that reminded them of your story. They made your day by taking a moment to mention it, so you respond, expressing your gratitude. Another member revamped one of their characters, another asked a craft question, and another won a contest. These Discussion threads don’t come every day, but when they pop up, every member takes a moment to respond. This only takes a few minutes out of your day. Instead of detracting from your writing, it keeps you interested.
A member has a plot hole and can’t figure out what to do. The group gets creative and decides to meet in a Chat room for an hour. The discussion allows for immediate feedback and by the end of the hour, the member is full of ideas and can’t wait to dive back into their writing.
In the beginning, the excitement keeps you on schedule with your posting and critiquing. But a few months in, your job gets crazy (or it’s the holidays, or a relative gets sick, or you have a baby). You haven’t been on the website for a couple weeks. You may not even realize it’s that long until you get a message from a group member asking if you’re okay. You respond, then take a minute to explain your situation in the discussion area. You won’t be able to get to a critique before it expires. Can it be extended? The group leader extends it for a week. The group tells you not to worry. Next time, you’ll let them know ahead of time. You deal with your crisis without feeling like you’re letting the group down. When it’s over, you consider taking a breather and letting the group slide, but you’re a writer, so you recommit.
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Group dynamics come from conversations beyond critiques. These dialogs allow the members to relate outside of the submission arena and in the process, enhance each other’s craft. When a writer shares what they’ve written, they share a piece of their soul. Feeling connected makes it that much easier.
What has worked well within your group? Take a moment to share below!
About Rose Wachowski
Rose Wachowski is a computer programmer by day and a writer by night.
She has written three novels (paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy) and is utilizing Inked Voices to turn them into something readable. She enjoys the whole process: improving her craft, writing new material, working with other writers, and revising completed works.
Special thanks to her Novel Review group for all their input on not only her writing, but also this post.