New Writers

Are you new to writing? Something you used to do and want to pick back up? Newly retired and want to get that story out? Or is writing just something you always wanted to try?

If so, that’s great and we wish you all the best. You’re probably looking for a writer’s group. That’s also great! Let’s talk about what that means for you and other writers as well.

Writing is a lonely pursuit. You don’t generally do that in groups and even if you do, it’s heads down, hands on keyboard or pen. So, the prospect of talking about writing sounds wonderful. And it is.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean critique.

Critique is often harsh, and some very famous, well-published authors won’t take it. The nicest, well-intentioned critique can make you cry and feel like a failure. No one likes that feeling. While critique can make your work better and teach you how to read your work with a critical eye, it can make you shake with fear. Often it breaks new authors.

You see, critique can make you feel like you have to make everyone happy. It can make you stick your boots in the sand and scream that your work is perfect. It can make you rewrite the same chapter over and over again for years.

And all of this is bad. Very, very, bad.

Critique is the skill of receiving feedback, finding gold, and changing what you do. No one starts from this place.

If you’re just starting, you may not be ready for critique. That’s okay.  Here are some places you can check out for lessons, and other types of writing groups:

  • Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
  • Meetup
  • ACFW Colorado Springs
  • Boulder Writer’s Workshop
  • Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop

Still here? Maybe you want to try out this critique thing anyway? Our group has many levels of writers, from beginners to published. Our goal is to make everyone’s writing better. Let’s give you a few tips to help you be successful.

Finish first.

So this is hard. Submitting something while you’re writing it can have the effect of stopping your writing altogether. You don’t want that. Get that mess down on the page.

While submitting a piece for critique work on something else.

You want to fix things. You have to but taking that step away will give you a chance to think about the critiques and give you a fresh look at your story. You will see things in a different light and you will have a better chance to apply the critiques in a more meaningful way.

After a critique session, walk away. Come back to those critiques later.

Look, you’ll want to obsess over every word that was said. Don’t. Or, at least, try not to. Just like your writing needs to sit, so do critiques. Approaching them from an emotional space kind of sucks.

When you finally go back, weigh each piece of critique.

Do you know what pan mining is? You take a wok-like dish, scoop up the riverbed, and use the rush of the river to sift through the dirt to find gold. That’s what you’re going to do with critique. We may say things that we will stick with until our dying day. People will give opposite and inconsistent feedback. You don’t have to make everyone happy and you don’t have to follow every piece of critique. You’ll need to learn to sift through critiques for the gold, unique perspectives, history lessons, language comments, etc that will make your story better. Only you can do that. You’re going to a critique group to get those perspectives, so you should listen, but only you can decide what will make your story shine.

As a new writer, your story may not be good.

We all want to write perfection. We do. However, as a new writer, you may receive the harshest criticism of all. No one likes saying this. Just like writing, critiquing is a skill. Even if you are asked to pause submissions while you work on your craft, you will still be expected to read and provide feedback on other members’ work. It is a commitment.

Don’t Take It Personally.

We’re talking about your story. Writing is hard. It’s personal. When someone says your character is a jerk (or worse, boring), or that the sentences don’t make sense, or that your carefully constructed plot could be destroyed by a phone call–we aren’t talking about you but it sure feels that way. It’s difficult not to get angry or defensive. What else should you do? Take a deep breath, take notes, and set everything aside. Remember to come back to it later. A few days, weeks, or months. Maybe by then you can even laugh at yourself and feel grateful for the light shed on your story’s holes so that you—the writer—can find solutions. All of us go through this even after years of critique. And we’re still here because, in the end, our stories and our craft improve.

Still want to be in a critique group? We’ll have it on the front page when we are accepting new members. We have an application to submit with a few questions about you and your writing.   

Finally, a few tips.

Be honest – don’t hide what your story is about. Don’t submit published pieces. This is for working on your writing. So do that. You don’t need to be Stephen King nailing his published work on a professor’s door. A story with a bad critique can become a publishing success. But a well-crafted story will be remembered for ages.