Writing can be a very lonely business. I’m happy in my own company and often spend the core part of the day not talking to anyone (except myself and my dog). I’ve always had a hankering to be an eccentric recluse in a writers hut, but I suspect the reality of being so isolated would drive me mad.
Once my writing starts looking like a book, I get other people involved in the process. I have a number of Partners in Crime who feature at different stages of the creation of a completed project – my agent, my publisher, my publicist and my illustrator. Do come back and read about the others, but first of all I want to introduce you to my critique group.
Emma Styles, Tasha Kavanagh, Alli Jeronimus, Jen Miles and me.
The exact membership of the crit group has changed over time, but this particular line up has been going strong for a few years. We currently meet every two weeks during term time at a secret location on the South Bank.
I asked the team about their experience of being in our critique group.
Tasha : It’s great when you get to know a group of writers well. Beyond the obvious – ie the great feedback – the support and camaraderie is invaluable.
Alli : I can bring a plot problem to you four and I know I’ll leave with it sorted.
Jen : I love (and dread) hearing your comments on my work and learning from them – sometimes things are pointed out that I’m amazed I didn’t see myself. That’s both brilliant and annoying.
Emma : Mostly that I am never alone when working on something and always have a team on my side.
Interestingly we all struggled to come up with a negative thing to say about being a member of the group.
I guess that is why we have been together so long, with no sign of stress.
Although, I’ve been pointing out the overuse of rhetorical questions for three years and they still ignore me which sends me slightly insane, but hey – it’s their book!
Jen says ‘I belong to three critique groups. I’m a crit group junkie… all very different in approach and experience, though similar comments often come up.’Receiving feedback can be quite intense so everyone tries to take time to digest the comments before they wade in and make changes, but I guess it depends on where we are in the writing/submission cycle. Most people end up finishing their book and sending it out before the group have reached the final chapter. So there is a chance that we don’t actually get to read the whole book until it is published.This group has spawned two book babies so far.
We meet in a public space on the South Bank so now bring our own lunch. I asked everyone what they like to eat on a Friday.
Tasha : Uh… anything or nothing. Except now I’m vegan, so mostly chips.
Alli : Sushi. And then I steal bits of the Brownies Jo brings. [NB that is why Alli is slim and I am not]
Jen : Part of the pleasure is the jaunt to the Southbank, and I treat myself to yummy stuff either from the food market or the café inside.
Emma : I’m never organised enough to bring something from home, but I am partial to a cheese and pickle sandwich and a bowl of fries with mayo…
Jo : I love the opportunity of eating a meal cooked by someone else. My favourite is the vegetarian dosa from the Friday food market behind the Festival Hall and the gluten free brownies from the cookie/cake stall.