In meeting people for the first time, I am often exposed to a wistful look and words to the effect, "I would like to write a book—one day . . ."
I suspect people are hoping I'm going to tell them something like, "Writing a book is so easy! You should sit down and write one tomorrow. It'll only take a few hours to type out. You'll be published in no time. Then we'll waltz off with a six-figure advance to go get our nails polished together."
But, to be honest, writing is very hard, time-consuming, and sometimes thankless work. Authors are continually in need of learning and re-learning their craft. Advances are small. You're often left wondering why you decided to become an author anyhow.
All I can say is thank goodness for my critique group.
These days, I think you see a lot of critique groups and writing buddies showing up on the acknowledgement pages of novels for good reason. I have been a part of Littleton Writers, a critique group of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for about ten years, and I can honestly say that I wouldn't have had a hope of publication without my terrific colleagues.
Being part of a critique group is, to me, one of the best ways for a writer to grow. If you're willing to be a thoughtful recipient of criticisms toward your writing, you'll grow faster and faster. So, if you're going to write that next best-selling novel, how can you make the most of your critique group experience? Here are some thoughts:
· Attitude Is Everything. Well, maybe not everything, but it is certainly important. The aspiring professional is willing to listen and apply edits when she hears a particular criticism repeated from around her group. The dreamer considers her words "golden," and is rigid in the need to keep them as they are.
· Silence Works. Yes, you can argue, explain, and tell your critique group colleagues that what they read wasn't what you intended, but in the end you need to realize you cannot visit the home of every reader to "explain" what they may have missed. Sit back, relax, and say "thank you." Then, if you think the criticism is way off base, pitch the comments once you get home. It's pretty simple.
· Be Consistent. We don't take attendance in our critique group, but I've noticed that those who make a commitment to show up regularly tend to have more work completed in a year, and more success with contests and agents than those who come "when the Muse inspires them." Even if you don't have anything new to share, you still learn and grow just by participating in the critique process.
· Follow Group Rules. We're not in kindergarten any more, so we have to assume that rules implemented are done for a reason. Yes, the procedures get bent on occasion, but if your group has guidelines posted, just use them. You need to be able to focus on your writing and not be wasting time arguing over the intelligence and necessity of following particular old rules.
· Grow Your Group. We have one man in our group who is constantly encouraging new members to join. Our whole community benefits from new perspectives and input. Let's face it. Once you get to know and like someone, you're much less inclined to tell him his writing has problems.
· Make Some Colleagues Friends. Many of the people in my critique group are not close. We have upwards of 70 people coming and going (though usually only 10 to 15 show up each week). I can't be a friend with them all. But life and story are all about people. Enrich your writing and your life by becoming friends with some of your colleagues. You can share hopes and disappointments a lot easier this way.
· Share. Have you read a good writing technique book recently? Is there a great article in your latest copy of Writer's Digest? How 'bout a best seller in your writing genre? Help others by sharing your experience. Of all the "writer's platform" work you can do, to me, this is one of the best.
· Believe in Yourself. No matter what is written on your work by well-intentioned colleagues, when you turn in a book for publishing consideration, it is your name on the author line. If you don't believe in your story, no one else will.
Liesa Malik considers herself lucky to have been steeped in reading from an early age. Both parents and teachers read widely and out loud to expose her to many children’s classics. These tales inspired Liesa to create her own characters and stories.
Today, as a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Liesa lives in Littleton, Colorado with her husband, her German shepherd dog, and her wonderfully cranky cat.
Her novel, Sliced Vegetarian, has recently been purchased by Five Star Publishing, and is her second Daisy Arthur Mystery. If you liked Faith on the Rocks, you may want to try Sliced Vegetarian, currently scheduled for release summer 2015.
To learn more about Liesa and her writing, go to: