Why You Need a Critique Group & The Things It's Taught Me...

Nobody writes a perfect first (or third or fourth) draft. And as much as we all like to think what we create is brilliant, we need honest feedback to improve as writers. I absolutely adore my critique group. We meet monthly and turn in about 50 pages for each session. Everyone is a thriller or mystery writer, but the subgenres vary. Our backgrounds vary too, and everyone brings amazing skills and experiences.

I appreciate the feedback, and the monthly deadlines keep me on track with my writing. I learn as much from the conversations about others' work as I do when they review my submissions.

Here's what I learned from last month's meeting...

Backstory - Sprinkle in the history of the story. Don't do a large data dump of character or biographical information. Spread it through your chapters.

Yawn! - If you're bored, your readers will be too.

Chapter Endings - Avoid ending a chapter with a character going to bed. The reader needs a reason to turn the page and not look for a good stopping point.

Crutch Words - Look for words that you overuse. Use your word processor's search feature to find them. Mine are "in a few minutes," "very," and "just." I have a list now, and I search through the draft when I'm self-editing to get rid of them.

Dashing off - If you use dashes, make sure that they're the em dash and not two hyphens.

Semicolons - Watch your use of semicolons. They can be an indicator that your sentences are too long and wordy.

Cut the Fluff - Get rid of useless words and phrases. It makes your writing tighter. Look at your adjectives. You don't need two or three to describe the same thing.

Jump to It - Use "jumps" to indicate the passage of time. You don't have to account for every minute of your character's life. To fly from New York to Paris, you can move from one scene to the next. You don't have to write about driving to the airport, parking, checking in, buying coffee, and sitting in the lounge, unless it's key to the plot of the story.

What's in a Name - Be consistent with what you call your characters. Don't refer to them by multiple names or titles. It confuses your readers.

Best wishes with your writing. Keep at it. It's work, and it takes a lot to revise and rewrite.