Thursday, October 12, 2006


Last month I signed up for an online critique class. It’s a one-time class with four participants and the instructor, Ray Rhamey. I think it will be very interesting and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll all virtually meet tomorrow for the session.

I’ve been doing my homework, which consists of reading the opening pages that we exchanged and making notes. I’ve made notes on the pages themselves, then also printed out the suggested talking points that Ray sent and made notes on each person’s pages there as well.

One thing I’ve found interesting is that by reading the first chapters (although the critique will only focus on the first five pages) I can’t tell the genre. And, thinking back to what I sent to the other participants, I doubt they could tell my genre.

You may know you’ve written a sci-fi or a mystery or a romance or a fantasy, but if nothing happens in the opening pages to indicate that (a murder or an elf or an overly handsome yet aloof man, etc.), your reader won’t know it. But, of course, they do. They picked your book out of the mystery section of the bookstore, or the horror section, or wherever, so they know what to expect.

Another thing I’ve found disconcerting is that in a couple of the manuscripts, I’m unsure of the time period. The setting appears to have features that could set it in the “modern” world of today or late twentieth century, yet there is an atmosphere of early 1900s. As a result, I feel a little un-grounded. Of course, this makes me look at my own material. Are my pages firmly set in the modern day? Maybe not in the first five pages. I think it reads as if it was in the present day, but it could be questioned until about page six when it becomes clear. I’m not sure how I would anchor my own pages in the present day in those first five pages, but it does give me something to think about.

This is why a critique group is a good idea. Of course it’s helpful to everyone in the group. But it also makes you think about your own work. Of course, you have to find the right critique group for you. That may not be the first group you join, or even the second or third. Find people you’re compatible with, yet who won’t just tell you how great your work is or tell you it sucks either. Find people actively writing and able to submit work to the group for review. I’ll do more on finding a critique group in another post, but in the meantime, I’ll see how this group goes when we meet tomorrow and let you know. My guess is that Ray is going to be a great facilitator.

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