A few weeks ago, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers, for the bargain price of $50. The association has everything from an annual conference to regional groups, online courses and critique groups (among a lot of other stuff). I signed up for an online course, joined a regional group, and then applied for a critique group. You usually have to wait for enough members of a critique group to come together, and the site tells you it can take as long as 30 days to get a group going.
Mine took less than a week. There are six of us, one of whom serves as facilitator. We're from all over the country, with varying ages, experience levels and writing subjects. Never having participated in a critique group before, I had to ask what kind of response was expected (I think we all signed up for the "tough but kind" category). The facilitator sent some general guidelines, which were helpful.
I sent my six-page selection to the group yesterday. I was third into the barrel, the facilitator having volunteered to go first. And this group is almost exactly the kind of readers I'm writing for.
For someone who has faced down a gaggle of reporters with microphones shoved in my face, and on more than one occasion, my heart was in my throat. I tried not to think about it at work today. Fat chance.
So I got home, sat in front of my computer and stared at the list of 53 email messages waiting for me. One was from a member of the critique group. I went through all of my other emails before I opened that one. I clicked, downloaded the critique, and started reading.
She had some suggestions. Some were changes in phrasing that I wouldn't do, but a number of her suggestions were right on. And she included reasons for the comments, which were really helpful.
Yeah, I've got four more to go, but this was both tough and kind, thoughtful and encouraging. I smiled.