Monday, August 30, 2010

The perfect crit group

As many of our blog readers might know, the Minxes of Romance started as a crit group put together after the 2009 Presents contest. In the months since then, the group has gelled into an incredible team - this blog is evidence of that! So I thought I'd share my thoughts on what makes the perfect crit group. I haven't really got anything new or ground breaking to say, but I'm going to say it anyway.

Before I joined the Minxes, I had a few individual CPs and belonged to an on-line crit group or two. Some I worked well with, and we're still friendly, others not so much. But from the moment that I 'met' the other Minxes, I knew I was onto a winning streak.

So what are the important elements of a good CP relationship?

1. The first thing is that you all need to be at about the same place in your writing journey. This is important because a complete newbie might be forever wondering what you're going on about if you use 'insider speak', and a more experienced writer might not want to spend time having to explain the difference between internal and external conflict, for example. Mentoring has its place, but you usually want a CP relationship to be between equals, not one-sided.

2. You need to speak the same language. And I'm not just talking about the difference between say a writer who writes in English and one who writes in Japanese. I mean that you should read the same type of novels, be targeting similar lines etc. So that when your CP says 'this hero is more Modern than MH', you can appreciate what she means.

3. You and your CP(s) need to be able to give roughly the same amount of time to the writing process. The relationship is going to struggle if one of you is prolific and writing a book a month while the other takes a year to write one. The writer who takes longer is going to become even slower as she spends her life critting rather than writing! This is why I like a crit group. We all have lives that sometimes get in the way of writing. In a group, it's easier to take a break from critting without feeling like you're letting anyyone down. In a one-on-one situation, if you're having a busy week at work and your CP is on a deadline ... let's just say, I'm already very good at making myself feel guilty! But you also need to beware against a group getting too big and impersonal.

4. Personalities. Sometimes you can have a really good CP, someone who gives you great feedback and you enjoy each other's work, but that's as far as it goes. And then you meet a CP that you just click with. It's a bit like falling in love; you can't explain it, it just happens. And before you know it, you're not just crit partners, you're best friends. You know more about each others' lives than anyone else does. Your CPs provide shoulders to cry on, friends to laugh with, and they're good listeners when you just need to get something off your chest.

5. Trust. This is a biggie for me. I know I can trust the Minxes with the one thing that I hold most sacred: the words that I write and the ideas in my head. (Okay, so that's two things!) I know that they'll always be honest with me, but they'll also be kind and supportive. We've shared our joys, fears and secrets. They know who I am and still pretend to like me. When you find a CP like that, hang on to them!

6. A similar taste in men. Don't under-estimate this important bit! If one CP likes her heroes hot, sexy and Alpha, and the other likes her heroes tender, sympathetic and Beta, it's not the strongest basis for a relationship. Do you want to guess which type the Minxes prefer?

Thanks so much to all the Minxes for sharing this journey with me!


Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great post, Romy. And all very true.


Kat said...

Fab post Romy! I feel very lucky to be the newest minx. xx

Maya Blake said...

Oh, what a lovely way describe it, Romy, especially NO. 6 ;). Seriously though, I think you're spot on!

Joanne Coles said...

I think everything you said is spot on. I really struggle with showing people my writing because it's so personal to me, it feels a bit like telling a secret. That's why I love to be a Minx. Everyone is honest and straightforward with their crits, but at the same time not afraid to tell you when there are missing elements.

And of course, the fact we share a similar taste in men is definitely a must have!!

Lorraine said...

Too true Romy, it's a nightmare to have to be forever explaining yourself. It's so nice to be able to speak in shorthand!

I dithered about joining a group because of the time element involved but I'm so glad I did. If anyone out there is considering the same thing I'd say without hesitation to give it a try...