Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Don’t Get Stranded on an Island – the Value of Critique Groups by Christi Whitney

Don’t Get Stranded on an Island – the Value of Critique Groups

Sometimes being an author can feel like getting stranded on a deserted island, just off the mainland. You can see other artists around you. Some are paddling desperately in the water, fighting to stay afloat. Others are building beautiful structures in the middle of civilization, having great success in all they do; while there you are, on your own, attempting to navigate the daunting world of writing—which sort of feels like sitting on the beach, trying to light a fire with wet wood.
For me, one of the most important factors of my writing has been joining a critique group. Nothing else has proven to be quite as productive as finding that little clan of people who are going through the same journey. We call our group Trail Mix—and with good reason. We all met thanks to SCBWI, and we’re as unique and varied a bunch as you could possibly throw together. We span the realm of children’s books, from illustrators to picture book writers to middle grades and young adult. We have a myriad of outside careers and interests. We are many different ages and come from assorted backgrounds. Our love of books brought us together, but it didn’t stop there.

We provide encouragement and a shoulder to cry on, yes. Those things are certainly important. But we also provide critique—deeply thought-out and constructive help in every area. It’s not enough to get together and just commiserate. You’ll feel better, but no one will improve her skills. You have to be willing to be vulnerable as the artist and brutally honest as the reader, and we’ve managed to create a beautiful balance in our group. But most importantly, we have become great friends. Nothing could be better than that.

Trail Mix meets once a month, but our communication extends far beyond that. We regularly communicate through our Facebook page, emails, and even phone calls and texts—whenever we need advice or a second set of eyes, someone in our group is always there to meet the challenge, whether it’s a sweet hug or a swift kick in the pants.

I honestly don’t think I would’ve kept moving forward in my quest for publication for my YA novel Grey had it not been for my critique group. It’s been a long road, but now that I’ve found a home for my series and the first book is out, I can say it’s largely due to their support.

It’s a lonely place, sitting at your computer, lost in the worlds you create in your head. Friends and family, although incredibly supportive, don’t always understand your battle with writer’s block or your struggle to find the missing piece in a chapter that’s literally driving you insane. It’s amazing to have a group of people who truly get me as a writer and constantly help me develop my craft. If I have one piece of advice to offer any aspiring writer, it’s this: find at least one other person to travel with on this journey. Don’t be an island.

- Christi J. Whitney


Christi writes novels for the YA and NA markets. She is a theatre nerd who makes costumes on shoestring budgets, dabbles as an actor and director, and manages to drink lots of coffee.
Visit her website to read more about her and her book, GREY.


Don't Forget!!!
Southern Breeze offers a crit group survey form < >
This survey is for SCBWI Southern Breeze members who are looking for critique groups or a manuscript exchange,  or are in an existing crit group that is open to new members?

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  1. Maybe I'm a little biased, because I am one of the TrailMixer's mentioned above, but I have found having a writing group to be hands down one of the best things that has happened to me. It's not just the camaraderie, cheerleading, handholding, hug giving, kick in the butt when you need it that the group provides. It's also being inspired by and surrounding yourself with like-minded creative types and forging an incredible bond with one another. I couldn't imagine traversing this journey without them. :)

  2. Best article ever! I came into the group as an illustrator with the desire to learn to write. That was a vulnerable place to be, but I can tell you this- I have improved so much! I know I wouldn't have been able to see how without them. ��

  3. By the way, "Grey" is fantastic! And WE (Trail Mix) should know!

  4. Nice Article sir, Keep Going on... I am really impressed by read this. Thanks for sharing with us..
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