Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Column: Critique Groups and the Five Stages of Grief by Cindi Madsen

I was at a writers’ workshop and a girl sitting next to me started talking about critique groups. She was in a group she wasn’t sure about, and none of the other writers were even close to her genre. In my group, we all write different genres as well. My group rocks. I think the fact we all write different genres makes us look outside the box a little more, and every writer’s goal, no matter what genre, is to write well and keep our readers hooked. Getting my work critiqued isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done—especially in the beginning when we were just getting to know each other. But I felt like I’d done all I could do on my own, and I really wanted my book to be the best it could be. That meant feedback. It wasn’t always easy, but I learned so much, so fast. My writing jumped to a new level. I started seeing the difference it made in my book.

Now we’re comfortable with each other and trust each other. Critique group is an encouraging environment where we cheer each other on, help brainstorm, and have become friends. That doesn’t mean I take every suggestion. But I always consider them. My chapters are always better afterward. Sometimes it can get a little crazy—we get passionate about each others’ characters. We feel like we know them. One night after an especially lively session, I was driving home, trying to wade through all the comments and figure out what I needed to do to make the chapters stronger. I thought about how I went through stages after critique group. So, I compared them to the five stages of grief.

Five Stages of Critique Group Grief 

Denial – My stuff is awesome the way it is. They just don't get it.

Anger – I can't believe they're finding problems after all the hard work, heart, and soul I put into writing this!

Bargaining – But see how if you know this, it makes it all work out. Kind of.

Depression – I give up. Everything sucks, and I worked too hard on it already. I don't think I can look at it again. It's never going to be finished.

Acceptance – Okay, it needs some work, and after some time brainstorming, I think—no, I can—do better. This is what critique groups are for; to get input and make my book the best it can be. It’s going to take some work, but I will fix this!

About the Writer:  Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to by a new pair. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children, and is a member of PPW and PPRW. You can check out her blog at cindimadsen.blogspot.com.

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