One of the best things I’ve done in the past year to improve my writing is join a critique group. I found this group through the London Writers Society which meets twice a month in a small library in the heart of the city. And I’ve found many benefits.
I get to meet and talk with other people who enjoy what I enjoy. We go on the odd writing-oriented field trip. Regular meetings keep my head in the writing game. But most of all I relish the twice monthly meetings of my critique group.
Of course joining one of these took some courage as I knew no one and there is no stripping sensation quite like baring your writing soul for strangers. Ones whose faces you are looking at and whose pens are writing as you read. Definitely a little intimidating. That being said the benefits are definitely there for anyone who wants to give critique groups a try.
Our last meeting was the best for me. Not because there were only two of us and we’re both historical fiction babes, but because my writing partner said something that really hit home. Ruth suggested that I could make my reader feel closer to my main character by using ‘she’ instead of ‘Lucy’ when describing what Lucy is doing or thinking or saying. Here is an example:
“Lucy sat against the log and stroked the whimpering Harper John in her arms, her eyes on the soldier the whole time.”
I changed it to:
“She sat against the log and soothed the whimpering Harper John in her arms, her eyes on the soldier the whole time.”
Using Lucy’s name suggests a narrator point of view but dispensing with as many Lucy’s as I can, brings the reader into Lucy’s thoughts, her point of view. This is hard to see in this one sentence example but the effect of this in a novel is significant.
My critique group, then, is working well for me as its members continually make me think and reconsider. It has not always been so. Two other groups were not useful to me as the members knew less than I did. Great people, fine friends but I needed to be challenged. My advice then? Find a group of people who like your genre and who know more about it than you do.