|Philosopher in Meditation by Rembrandt|
I had no need for critiques when I first started writing back in 1999.
And then I learned better.
As I worked through the very first draft of my non-fiction book about my birth-mother experience—which by the way is what started my writing career in the first place—I plowed along on my own strength.
No wonder the Lord saw fit to postpone the publication of that book for the next 17 years.
When I set aside my non-fiction account and turned my energy to “Christian Fiction” I decided that maybe I needed some help.
That’s when I started taking courses on creative writing at Trinity Western University (where I worked) and making friends with other aspiring writers.
My first critique group was a mixed bag; Christians, non-Christians, a poet/photographer, a blogger, and two of us who wanted to write novels of vastly different genres.
- At first I found the critiques from the group to be wildly confusing and discouraging. To my thinking—this wasn’t helping me write my novel.
Everyone had such different ideas on how the first chapter of my novel should flow that I soon wished I’d never joined the group.
- But after a while I came to understand that though a good 50% of the critique wasn’t all that helpful, that the emotional support was exactly what I needed.
My critique group became my very first fan club. (We believed in each other’s creative abilities.) That became the injection I needed to keep on in the early days when I could so easily have packed my writing dream away in a trunk and forgotten it forever.
That group dwindled down to only three of us, two of us are now published authors, and the other is a highly successful blogger with a following that makes me green with envy. To this day we still encourage each other. As for critique group though, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was to my creative process.
Somehow I managed to write a novel that my first agent wanted to have critiqued by a reader whom he trusted, Crystal Miller of Indiana, also a writer, and highly involved with American Christian Fiction Writers. When she read my book and loved it, we began a friendship that has lasted to this day. Crystal encouraged me to join ACFW in 2008.
- Still shy of large critique groups, I discovered that I work best with one partner whom I can trust.
I found my critique partner on a sub group of ACFW, and you guessed it—that’s when the Lord hooked Rachel Phifer Moore and I up as critique partners.
At last I had found another writer who not only understood the genre I was writing in, but someone who understood me as a person. Rachel (an American) having grown up as a missionary kid in Malawi Africa, understood the British Colonial mindset as well as the American audience. Not only has Rachel been a joy to me as I now look forward to the release of my 7th title, but it has been a joy supporting her in her award-winning writing career too.
- Through my journey I have discovered that we all need critique groups or a partnership.
- Some of us work well in a group that injects a lot of energy and diverse thinking.
- Some of us (like myself and Rachel) need a quieter partnership.
- Either way, all writers need that group of first readers who will catch the million and a half things that are wrong in our writing, and celebrate with us over those things we get right.
It is through that partnership that I will see the publication of that book that the Lord put on hold for the past 17 years—that non-fiction account that started my writing career in the first place.
All good things come in time, and it’s all the more sweet to share it with my dearest writing partner.