Friday, September 3, 2010


Writing is not a lonely life, as is often stated. How can it be when the writer is immersed in a world filled with such wonderful characters? Of course, they're wonderful...they're your creation. What writing is though, is a solitary life. And, I know there are exceptions to this what with co-authors and such. But basically, we sit alone at our computers or with pen and paper in hand, and write. Hopefully, without too many interruptions from the outside world.

To balance this self-imposed solitude, there's nothing like a critiquing group. We've been together for over 15 years now (I sometimes fictionalize numbers as the memory grows more congested with details) and seen each other through first attempts at novels, moving onto short stories, anthologies, and then, quite wonderfully, published novels! And over that time we evolved into The Ladies' Killing Circle.

Our early routine was a regular bi-weekly meeting. Having pre-read each others chapters made that time together move faster and be of more value. And, of course, it also left time for lunch and a gabfest. When we moved into editing anthologies, it was short stories that claimed our time at these sessions, ours and others. Then, the book contracts started multiplying -- Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin and Joan Boswell led the way. Along with Vicki Cameron and Sue Pike, we were being short-listed and winning mystery writing awards on both sides of the border.

I like to think the critiquing group played a valuable role in all of this. We practice tough-love when reading, with a steely eye on logic, grammar, descriptions of characters and settings, and over-all readability. There's not one of us who will ever forget HDSF -- Vicki's code for, How Does She Feel. See that boldly penned in red ink across a page and let the re-writes begin!

Our routine has changed, as careers and life in general intervene, and most critiquing is done via email these days. Entire manuscripts are sent rather than a few chapters at a time. Tract changes take the place of red pens marking paper.

What has not changed is the value of having your fabulous words critiqued by those whose opinions you trust and who also know the business. And, of course, the support. That urging you on to produce, to rewrite, to rewrite again, and to get your work out there...on spec, to a contract deadline. Whatever. Just write it.

But, best of all, is the friendship. BFF! What a wonderful gift to the solitary writer.

Who are the gifts in your life?


  1. It's hard to imagine how helpful the right critique group can be, until you've been through the process! Thanks for this!


    Closet Confidential: a Charlotte Adams mystery

  2. I think we are closer to 20 years as a group. HDSF is properly attributed to Jo Beverley, famous romance author. I was in her critique group and she used to write HDSF all over my pages.

  3. Critiquing groups can be immensely helpful. Mine certainly has been. I find honest, work-focused, problem-solving feedback to be the most useful.

    But if you're afraid your "baby" may be slaughtered at the table, give yourself some distance from your creation. Until you can apply a critical eye or entertain some suggestions on the piece of work (as opposed to your worth as a writer)the process can prove to be soul-destroying, writers' block-inducing.

    In my experience, using the critiquing group process accelerates the learning curve for beginning writers. Highly recommended!