Critique Groups: The Ups, the Downs, and When to Use the Single Rider Line

I love roller coasters – like seriously love them.  The ups and the downs, the turns and the spins, the feeling of being out of control in an orderly fashion (hehe) – no ride is too scary or fast or high for me.  I also hate waiting in line, which is why I should be stoked whenever I see a ride that has a single rider line to help speed things up a bit.  I mean, come on!  Who wouldn’t just hop in the single rider line to get on faster, even if it means splitting their group up for the ride?

Me, that’s who.

Even as an introvert I can see it’s no fun if you can’t take the journey with someone — yelling together near the lows and smiling together at the highs, then being able to poke fun at your companion for years to come because they cry like a little girl when the track goes upside down.  Yet despite my glaring aversion to it, this past weekend I made the conscious decision to hop in the single rider line, uh…metaphorically speaking that is.

I’ve known for a while my writing was different from my other talented, bad girl sisters.  Not worse or better, just different.  I’ve blogged in previous posts about my struggles to find my place in this business and figure out what I wanted to write.  In case you haven’t picked up on it thus far, I write issue driven women’s fiction/family saga often surrounding dark topics.  And while all my stories have some sort of romantic element in them, they can be a far cry from your basic light and wonderful world of romance that many of my critique group partners write.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I absolutely LOVE reading my fellow bad girlz manuscripts, probably because it gives me a break from the dark and heavy.  But when writing, my stories just seem to take on a different route.  And that’s okay.  I’ve come to terms with being different and love the direction I’m heading on.  My fellow bad girlz are SO supportive of me and embrace my differences, rather than make me feel like an outsider.  I use their strengths in romance to make my writing lighter, and they use my strengths with the heavy to add a little more depth to theirs.  It works for us, and I hope that you will consider diversifying your group as well.

That being said, I also have to be truthful (because that’s just what I do) and say that sometimes it’s a challenge for me.  Like this weekend, for example.  How was it that I could feel lost when I was standing in the middle of six of the most supportive women I’ve ever met in my life?  It just didn’t add up.

Well, when you really think about it, it kinda does.  My characters are on entirely different arcs and my plots have entirely different rules.  I can’t enter the same contests that my bad girlz enter, or follow the same formulas for what makes a manuscript successful.  The agents and editors I need to target are often on a different list, and the conferences and workshops I should attend to nurture my craft aren’t always the same as those that my friends need to attend.  We might all have a common goal, but the paths we need to take to get there are different.

So, could it be I felt lost because subconsciously I felt I was standing in the wrong place?

It’s hard going at it alone, especially in a business where you spend so much of your time in your own head.  You need support along the way, and people who understand what you’re going through.  But as you grow, it may also become clear that in order to succeed in this roller coaster of a business you may need to step in the single rider line on occasion, even if it’s not the most comfortable place to be.

**Fade Violins; Cue Happily Ever After**

You know what the coolest part of all this is?  When I finally broke down and told the bad girlz about this internal conflict that was putting me in a funk all weekend, every one of them offered to stand with me.  They offered to look for other writing groups with me, tag along to meetings or conferences so I wouldn’t have to do it alone, and they reassured me that taking the path I needed to take did not mean I’d lose their support.  They reminded me that even if the line I’m waiting in is different than theirs, eventually we’re all going to end up in the same place.  But you see, I’m lucky like that, because my critique group just happens to be made up of my best friends.

So, a special thanks to the Bad Girlz for once again pushing me down the right path – you have no idea how much I appreciate each one of you.  And for those fellow introverts out there reading this I encourage you to search out a group – it just might be the thing that keeps you going on your path someday.


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