Thinking Critiqually

Hello once again Fellow Children’s Writers and Friends
I’m going to dive right in today and start thinking and talking about critique groups. Thinking Criqually is a wonderful skill to develop if you are a writer of any genre and joining a critique group even if it’s not your genre is extremely helpful. Of course it’s better (especially if you write Picture Books like I do) to try to find a group who write in the genre you are working on, however, this is not always possible. For example the prose group I belong to decided not to stay behind and critique last month due to a variety of other commitments. As a result I sat in, with their permission, on the ‘Tanka Huddle’ critique group. I felt awkward at first knowing that I was out of my depth, however, I was able to participate and provide suitable feedback simply as a reader. After all, any writer writes or should write with the reader clearly in mind and not every reader, in fact not many readers are going to be aware of what makes a tanka, or any other poem, or any piece of writing for that matter enjoyable. They just know that they like it. That is what I could offer, I couldn’t help with the technical aspects, but I could tell them what I liked, disliked, understood, didn’t understand and why AND I even found out a little about how they were able to fix that. Actually shorter verse forms such as Tanka and Haiku have quite a lot in common with Picture Books because every word and in their case every syllable, has to count. 
I was surprised to find that there was still something of value for my own writing in that wonderfully welcoming poetry critique group. Thank you ‘FAW Tanka Huddle’. I do actually belong to two critique groups, the prose one mentioned before with my FAW Branch members and CKT Writer’s Workshop; a private Facebook group you need to register for to be able to participate. It is specifically for writers of manuscripts suitable for children. Details on www.creativekidstales.com 

Both of these groups have been invaluable to me. From them I receive and hopefully provide for others help with manuscripts and even advice on where to enter or submit said manuscript. It is here where we apply the ‘sandwich method’ of critiquing; a positive piece of feedback, followed by constructive but not brutal comments about areas to work on, followed once again by a positive comment. For some manuscripts this is repeated several times within the critique as there is a lot to say. Using this method encourages us to be able to find both the negative and the positive; often a challenge for writers who are usually more than able critical thinkers, especially when it comes to their own work, but not necessarily ‘critiqual’ thinkers.
Belonging to critique groups has also had many added benefits such as developing the ‘critiqual’ thinking muscle through practice as I learn from those critique partners who are more experienced. Practice as we know, makes per… well experienced anyway so now I am no longer the least experienced. This is useful both to the group and for my own self editing. Also there’s a shared knowledge base i.e. about competitions, lesser known publishing opportunities, when the well known publishers have opened their books, however briefly, advice on where and how to enter/submit PB manuscripts, poems and short stories. As well as this, you will have like minded people to attend writerly events with, because despite how much as your family love you, a writer’s life is generally a lonely one. Family members will either drag themselves along to please you or point blank refuse to go (read teenage males, who generally point blank refuse to do just about anything anyway, so don’t take it personally) which is often the better option for all concerned. When you’re excited about meeting an influential writing hero, or eager to learn something new at a conference, or just wanting to soak up the atmosphere at a festival, you want someone with you who will enjoy it at least equally as much.
Then there is the joy of helping others and the thrill of seeing them succeed especially if/when they credit you as being part of their success. I had this experience just the other week when a writer friend of mine told me of a big success she has had recently and that I am one of the first people she has told because of the help and interest I had displayed in her efforts particularly with this ms. Well I think I was almost as excited as she was. If writers look on their manuscripts as though they are almost like children then I have to say that this ‘ms aunt’ was very chuffed.
And so to the final benefit for today, being part of an amazing nationwide sometimes even worldwide community. My experience with my friend’s success is not at all uncommon. As I have mentioned in past posts, other writers, even published authors are out there pulling for you, hoping for and delighting in your success. So if you haven’t already joined a critique group, find one who write in your chosen genre (where there will be more focused expertise) if possible, or join one regardless of genre where you may even discover a new writing passion! Diversification too, will open up new doors. Whichever way you go and whose to say you can’t go in more than one direction- join a critique group today. 

We sometimes even share new release books, some of which we later buy ourselves. What are some of the more interesting added extras you’ve gained from your critique group(s)?  I’d love to know so don’t be shy, comment below.

Farewell for now fellow travellers,

Savour the quest,

Journeygirl.

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About Artelle Lenthall

I am a wife, mother and emerging Children's Author. I am loving the new 'sites' on the road to publication. I belong to the Fellowship of Australian Writers(FAW) Creative Kids Tales(CKT) and the NSW Writers Centre and although I'd love to belong to more writing related organisations, I have found friends, support, critiquing and general encouragement with these, for which I am truly grateful. I also subscribe to Tara Lazar's specialist Picture Book website which often inspires me in the development of my craft. Worth a look if like me, Picture Books are your passion.
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