Are you willing to do whatever it takes to become the best writer you can be? In addition to pouring your heart and soul into your story, there is an important step you can take to make sure you grab the attention of agents and editors – and it’s free!
No, I’m not suggesting you do a striptease to get their attention – it’s something else that requires just as much self-exposure. I’m referring to critique groups - sometimes called ‘beta readers’ – who read your story before it’s finished and provide you with valuable feedback to make your story even better. Critique groups run the gamut from an informal collection of fellow writers and readers who read your chapters along the way while your story is still being written, to more structured groups who have strict deadlines for submissions from its members – there is no right or wrong way.
We all know it’s really hard to open ourselves up to criticism about something as personal as our written word, so it’s important that the author feels safe in the forum in which feedback is granted. No one enjoys being stripped naked and exposed to humiliation for being less than perfect – so there’s some rules we all need to follow.
The most important advice when establishing your own critique group is to select people who are fans of your genre and who are willing (and able) to provide constructive criticism. Some critique groups meet as a team and collectively share their feedback with the author in-person, while others provide written comments to the writer via email. While you may not like everything your critique group tells you - their advice will be very meaningful if you have chosen them well.
My favorite writing teacher has a golden rule about critique – her students provide feedback to each other that focuses on three specific aspects of the story that work well followed by three areas of improvement. This technique of balancing the good with the bad is an empowering combination of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.
So if you don’t already have your own posse, get out there and recruit fellow writers to read your work or join a critique group that’s already formed – and use their feedback to polish your work into the exquisite jewel it was meant to be!♥
Catherine McNally is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. An avid romance reader who’s now writing her own stories, she joined Romance Writers of America in 2013 and found her way to RWA/NYC where her local chapter members inspire her to pursue her dream of becoming a published author.