So you've decided to take that leap and write the romance you've always dreamed of writing. Your mother, sister-in-law, husband and best friend all think it's wonderful--that's great! But while having them read your story might help with the kinks, your fellow writing peers are the ones who know what editors are going to look for. As it is, Editor X may not even like what you have, just because they did. That is where getting involved with a critique group is so important for a writer . . . on the 'write' path.
Being involved with a wonderful critique group (mine meets once a month and enjoys each other's company) is a blessing when you are serious about your writing career. Critiquing is taking the good with the bad with a touch of diplomacy and a lot of encouragement from others in the same boat as you. Some people prefer not seeing who they are critiquing with at first and building the personal relationships along the way. The internet is wonderful for those writers, where others are comfortable making the leap of faith right off the bat and meeting face to face.
A part of having a great critique group is having someone to run/moderate your group with an eye for regulations, ideals and morals to make everyone comfortable. I am thankful for our 'group leader' who is excellent with handling those issues and supporting our group.
Since our start up, we've recently had two of our members' books contracted to be published. There are others in our group who are already published within the romance industry and share in both giving and receiving ideas, comments and encouragement to help others in a positive role and to continue in their endeavors. Even published authors have a need for a readers view--from grammatical errors to character and plot flow.
If you are starting out in your romance writing career or path, check with Romance Writers of America or your local Romance Writers of America chapter to see if they have a critique group. Find a group you feel comfortable with but not so comfortable that they won't give you constructive criticism now and again when needed.
A couple of things to remember before joining a critique group:
• If you get a critique, you need to give a critique too (even if you’re not sure how--read it from a readers point of view until you can understand and see things within each other’s context--grammar, POV, plot and character development, etc. Not everyone sees the same things in all submissions. That is why many eyes are better than one.).
• Remember the golden rule--treat others with the same respect you would want to be treated. Give your opinions gently, recommend changes with an open mind, but remember it is still 'their' work, their brain child.
• Be able to take criticism with an open eye towards others but remember not everyone is going to see the same thing. If you get various points made on one detail from quite a few people in your group--look at it as maybe something that needs a change. But if it's a random thought from one individual take it with a grain of salt--it may be just one persons opinion but you know where you are going with your story.
• Also, if someone is an expert in a certain area dealing with your book (I've been blessed with a partner who is a history major and was able to point out historical situations for me in one of my books) take to heart who may be reading your story, you need realism. Ask them questions to help guide you in the right way. They may even read over your finished story to check for inaccuracies. Just remember to thank them in the long run.
• Encourage, celebrate and communicate! We're all on the same path. Even those who have been there, done that, and have the contracts--it doesn't end with one book. Celebrate each other's big and small accomplishments in their journey--you could be the next winner of a contest or the next one signing a contract with an agent or editor and will want to share the news with everyone.
Tell me about your critique group(s), tips or any questions you may want to share with others. I would love to hear from you.