#CritiqueGroup

http://www.amazon.com/Denim-Diamonds-Lori-Robinett/dp/1631030035/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405879835&sr=1-7&keywords=denim+%26+diamonds

Lori L. Robinett, author

The number of people who want to write novels is quite high, but very few people actually make it happen.  I get questions fairly often from aspiring writers, and a common question is how I found my critique group. My group is close-knit and I am very fortunate to have found them. Based on my experiences, here are my suggestions for finding your own group:

  • National Novel Writing Month. We all started as NaNo’ers. That’s how we met. When you participate in NaNo, you find others in your area who share your passion for writing. Some people might call it crazy, but we prefer to call it passion. ;o)
  • Network. Talk to your librarian. Tell people you work with that you are a writer. Tell your family and friends. Chances are, you’ll find other aspiring writers.
  • Test Drive. Don’t commit to a group until you’ve had a chance to read each other’s writing. Genre doesn’t matter as much as passion, enthusiasm, dedication, and skill level.
  • Find what works for you. My group meets every other week. We send a few chapters to each other by email the week before we meet, then we talk over suggested critiques face to face. But that may not work for you – do you want a high level overview of an entire novel, or are you looking for intensive line edits?

In a future post, I’ll give some tips about how to get the most out of your critique group. If you have ideas/tips, I’d love to hear them!

 

The Illusion of Attention

Take a moment to do this short exercise before reading further:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo?feature=player_embedded]

Be honest – how did you do?

This exercise is about the Illusion of Attention. So often we go through life seeing only what we expect to see. This can happen to you when you are driving. You see what you expect to see, which is generally the road and cars coming towards you. This is how drivers miss seeing motorcycles or bicycles. I was driving home one night after a scrapbooking crop and a mountain lion crossed the road in front of me. A mountain lion! It literally took me a second or two for it to register what I was seeing.

This also happens at work. You may see yourself in a certain role, in a certain position, performing certain tasks. You expect to do those things, and are used to doing them in a certain way. You may think you are paying attention to your job, when in fact you are doing exactly what you expect to do. You may be busy, but you may be busy doing the wrong things. For instance, when I started my current job, one of my jobs was to file the bankruptcy paperwork. One day I noticed that I was filing a lot of notices that assets had been located, but I wasn’t receiving any claims to file from the offices that might have a claim. Instead of simply filing those notices, I began to email departments to notify them that assets had been located and asked them to send me the billing invoices so I could file a claim. It worked. Claims were filed and payments began to roll in. All because I took a moment to examine what I was doing. Take a moment to examine what you are doing and how you are doing it. Once you are aware, you may discover that there is a different way to do things that is more efficient, or perhaps you can create a new work flow that makes your day go smoother. And maybe, just maybe, you will do something that will catch your boss’s attention.

But this illusion is about so much more than seeing a gorilla or a mountain lion, or doing your job better.

The illusion of attention as it relates to your goals and dreams is perhaps the most important illusion to shatter. Pull back, change your perspective, and seriously review what you are doing to reach your goals. A personal example: I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote and rewrote the same story over and over, and never made it past 25,000 words. I thought I was doing everything I could to reach my goal of being a published author. Then I joined National Novel Writing Month and realized that although I was writing, I was not paying attention daily to my need to write. I was not taking it seriously. I finished a first draft and wrote those two magical words “THE END” for the first time. I kept writing, continued to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and joined a critique group. Even though I thought I was paying attention to my dreams, I learned to adjust HOW I paid attention and began studying WHAT I was doing to make my dream become a reality and changed WHO I was listening to with regard to my dreams.

Once you are aware of the Illusion of Attention, you have begun to shatter the illusion.

What are you missing that is right in front of you?

Drawing Inspiration

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I always assumed that the writers I look up to (Stephen King, James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Lea Wait, Jennifer Crusie, and many others) are surrounded by inspiration. That is, until I decided to start taking my writing seriously. One of the first affirmations I chose for myself was “I do not wait for inspiration to write, I am inspired by writing.” If I wait to be inspired, I won’t touch a keyboard for weeks, even months, because life gets in the way. There are so many demands on our time, that we don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. One of the young writers I work with years ago told me the blank page staring at her freaks her out, and asked how I can sit down and just start typing. “What inspires you?” she asked.

The answer for me is competition. In order for me to be successful, I have to be accountable to someone other than myself. It’s way to easy to lie to myself and bargain with myself. I believe me and fall for it every time. At this point, I have eight completed novels (one published, one in the editing stages and the remainder in rough draft stage). I would never have gotten there if it were not for four very important things – in no particular order: Book-in-a-Week (BIC HOK TAM!!!), National Novel Writing Month, my critique group (this is a talented group: Colleen Donnelly, Ericca Thornhill, Carolyn Branch and Jennifer Bondurant – pay attention to those names. You’ll see them on the best seller list someday), and my friend Lynn.

I need that push, that drive, that accountability, which is currently offered by my critique group. And there used to be NaNo (this is only the 2nd year I haven’t competed). All of my completed novels started as NaNo novels (by the way, our little region frequently finaled in the top 10 for the average production per writer list!! Kudos to us!!). And that’s how I got hooked up with my writers’ group. I really like these people, and even though I only see them occasionally, we share a unique bond. I joined up as a Nano’er and stuck with them throughout the year. It is well worth it to have a face-to-face meeting with other writers. We writers are a different breed. By our very nature, many of us have tendencies towards introversion. This gives us a chance to talk to others that understand our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our frustrations.

So, that’s what does it for me. Accountability and competition.

And the chance to meet some fantabulous women for breakfast every other Saturday!

I encourage you to give serious thought to what inspires you. Do not wait for inspiration to hit. It doesn’t knock on your door and ask if now is a convenient time. Surround yourself with inspiration. Think about what fires you up and makes you productive. It may be something like a support group, or it may be something completely different, such as having a ritual before you begin writing. Once you find something that inspires you, incorporate it into your life, and start making your dreams become realities, bit by bit.