I love my critique group. Not just the individuals in the group, but the group as a whole, and the work we do together.
Could we look more alike? I don’t think so. In the beginning, we worried about our lack of racial and gender diversity–though for a time, some of us were led to believe Linda Stanek was African American. We contemplated affirmative action, but ultimately let the group stand, fearing we couldn’t handle too large a group.
I am currently working through lengthy critiques of a work-in-progress, and I am amazed at the diversity of comments from The Group. One member has an issue with the mother character in chapter seven. Another feels a trademark exclamation is overdone. Another feels the teen boy character is a little hollow.
In delving further into the character complaint, I discovered two other members felt he was spot on, and they both have teen boys at home. That seems like a lot of confusing and diametrically opposed information. Should I take the word of the majority and ignore the minority? That would be the easiest thing to do.
But, no, that’s not what I’m doing. I’m trying to satisfy the minority without upsetting the majority by adding bits and pieces here and there.
Further discussion, in addition to the line-by-line critiques, allows me to identify some specific places in the manuscript, some words and phrases and reactions that work or don’t work for different members. The different perspectives are different colors of paint. By using a fine brush and bits of them all, I think the character is building up, filling out, and becoming–well, more colorful.
Though our group is not as diverse as it might be, we’re more diverse than we look. We come from all across the country (it’s on online critique group) and have different histories, experiences, and interests. I appreciate the diversity we have and am grateful for the impact that diversity has on my writing.
There was a time when I couldn’t imagine belonging to a critique group. Now I can’t imagine not belonging to one.
Categories: Children's writing