Full-on, that’s what it was: three pieces to critique with a lot of comments and heavy workshop discussion which led, at one stage, to two separate discussions; each group totally involved in the task at hand.
Sometimes this is necessary, as we have limited time and busy lives. Writers don’t have the luxury of being locked up in a turret to work without interruption, so we have learned to cope with the distractions, live our lives to the best of our ability, and to write whenever we can (it is an obsession, you know – we can’t not do it).
Three members of the group also did nanowrimo (look it up if you don’t know what it is), and this can take some commitment as well.
But would we miss our critique sessions? Not on your Nellie! Never. No way. It is too important to hear how people read our words, how they get (or don’t) the meaning behind and between the words. A writer will always read what they think is there, but only a reader can advise how they received the message and what it meant.
The three pieces had a common theme for the purpose of critique: structure.
How to put the whole story together – very much like a dressmaker puts a garment together – is a critical element. One major plot must run through the whole story; one main character gives us that story through their experiences and conflicts (etc.); one antagonist must clash with the main character; the story and plot and conflict must be big enough to carry the whole story from beginning to end; the story and plot and conflict must not be too big or have too many ‘things’ (one story at a time, please) or the flow and pattern and closeness will be lost; and, even if it doesn’t make sense at some points, it must all make sense at the end.
Many people say a writer doesn’t need to know how the story ends, but I (personally) think the three main things the writer does need to know before they go too far are: the beginning, the end, the plot. If you know all these things in the beginning, you can walk the line from open to close, even if there are a few detours along the way.
And it’s all fun, right? It’s all good in the end? The critique group will certainly let the writer know the impact the words of the story had on them as a reader – and that’s the most important reason to write: to open the mind and heart of the reader through a living character doing something.
And that is my opinion, what’s yours?