On February 3 I wrote about sending my young adult novel (the one that took me about three years to write) off to my group. So last Friday we got together to discuss it. Now, this can be a daunting prospect because we have some very astute writers in the group and some who have a lot of fun replotting entire novels (whether you want them to or not :-)). Luckily, they have a sense of humor about it so that’s good.

The critique went very well, with a lot of very insightful comments and suggestions. One thing I love about a live, in-person group is the discussion that it generates. One person says something, then someone else expands on it, disagrees, or has a totally different idea. Some really awesome ideas came out of the discussion last week and it was thrilling. I am really excited about revising one particular scene after discussion helped me visualize it as well as several others.

Here are some tips I followed to “survive” the experience:

  • Remember that you are not your story.  I know. This is almost impossible for most people. But you have to do it for the sake of your emotional health. DETACH, DETACH, DETACH. Practice now, in the safety of your group, so you’ll be ready when the negative reviews come in (or just don’t read those–that’s a very viable option!).
  • Be too busy and excited about other things to think about the critique. I was busy working on revisions for a new picture book, developing a series idea for some toddler books, going to the SCBWI conference in New York, teaching a picture book class, and taking an online marketing class. I actually would forget about the critique for days on end and then remember it again 🙂 .
  • Be open and excited about possibility. My group is amazing so I went in ready to listen. I already knew there were dropped threads and that the last fourth of the book wasn’t as strong so I couldn’t wait to see what ideas they had. I went with a positive attitude so the entire experience was positive.
  • Remember that you are the author. The bucks stops with you. You can take or leave the comments–you know the story you’re trying to tell so use the feedback that most supports that story. And ask questions if you need clarification or if you want to pursue a new idea.
  • Practice gratitude. Here are people who have taken a number of hours out of their busy lives to read my manuscript, comment on it, and then gather together to discuss it. This is a gift I appreciate very much and I make sure they know it.

Have any critique group tips you’d like to share? Bring them on!