Monday, September 15, 2008

Critique Groups

As writers, it’s extremely important to have feedback from others to improve our manuscripts. I have belonged to a variety of different critique groups which are typically other writers. I have been in both in-person and online critique groups, and we meet anywhere from once a week to twice a month to review manuscripts in progress and give verbal or written feedback. But let me tell you about a fascinating critique group I participated in last Friday. I’m writing a middle-grade mystery novel for readers between the ages of eight and twelve. So my critique group was a class of fifth graders. Their teacher invited me in to the class, and I read the first two chapters of my novel, Jennifer Jacobson Private Eyeball. And what a group. They listened attentively, asked great questions and gave me feedback which I madly scribbled on a notepad as they spoke. They gave me positive feedback on finding the story engaging, but more importantly provided a list of areas for improvement including: a need to better develop several characters who had been mentioned as part of the back story, more description of a key event that had occurred before the beginning of the novel, stilted dialogue that wasn’t accurate for a twelve year old protagonist, and more character description. At the end of the time, one student raised a hand and asked if their class would be mentioned in the acknowledgement for my novel. I always list my critique groups in my acknowledgements.

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