I currently belong to three critique groups: one for novels and two for picture books (one in-person and one online). Yesterday I met with my in-person group to go over a manuscript that came to me a few months back. My online PB group had given me feedback, I’d revised, sent it to my agent, gotten feedback, revised, and sent it to my in-person group because it still didn’t feel quite there.

They were BRILLIANT. They showed me how I’d not only dropped one of the threads, but hadn’t been consistent with it. And they had great ideas for the dialogue for one of my characters. Then someone else chimed in and wham! Ideas were flowing. I was over the moon with excitement and couldn’t wait to revise, which I did almost immediately (I first had a call with my agent on another PB that I’m reworking after several passes from publishers last year).

What was so fun about today was not just the genius around my manuscript, but around everyone’s. Fun, silly, fabulous ideas just flowed out as we brainstormed different aspects of one story, the title for another. I found it so energizing and exciting. There’s something about the collective genius—the way ideas feeds off each other and creativity migrates and mutates into wondrous things.

And this doesn’t just happen with this group. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before with my novel group and now that my online critique group is more active, I’m basking in their collective genius as well.

Whether you are in a critique group or not, I encourage you to surround yourself with writers who are true supporters of your work and can discuss it in a spirit of fun and the goal of making it better. It’s invigorating to be inside the process, experiencing that genius all around you.