Coffee and Chocolate, where would we writers be without them? Especially when editing!
Following on from Amanda's post about editing ...
I thought I'd fill you in on how Marianne de Pierres and I started the ROR peer Critique Group nearly 10 years ago.
We were looking for something to push us to the next level of professionalism. We'd done all the workshops and we'd been running the VISION writing group for several years. But we craved more. We wanted novel length critiquing. We wanted knives (in the nicest possible way).
So we contacted a few writing friends we had, people scattered across Australia, and asked if they would like to be part of a peer critiquing group dedicated to improving their writing craft. So that was how the first ROR started.
ROR was meant to stand for wRiters on the Road. Then we found out that someone had actually started a group using that name. So we changed it to wRiters on the Reisling, but that gave a bad impression, so we changed it to wRiters on the Rise.
We've done well over the years. See here.
We have another ROR coming up in late august, just before World Con in Melbourne. This is how we structure our critiques. We send out our books a month beforehand so the we can read all the manuscripts and write reports. This is a big commitments, but worth it because we are getting 5-6 reports back on our books. (There are 8 RORees but because life happens, not all of us can make it every time).
Then we divide up the 3 days or so that we have into sessions, eg, Morning, afternoon, after dinner. And we do someone's book intensively for about 3 hours. Honestly, after that you feel like youv'e been put through the wringer, but in a good way.
This is how we structure the Crit.
Novel Length Critique
Overview (How we felt the book worked, marketability etc)
Tone and/or age appropriate (eg. age –if the book is for children 11-14, tone — if the tone is right for the subgenre)
Structure (look at establishing the problem and characters in the first chapters, narrative pacing, satisfying resolution).
View Point (Look at any problems with VP. This is usually a beginning writer’s problem, but sometimes an established writer will need to add or remove a VP to create narrative tension).
Characterisation (Which characters are working, which ones aren’t. What are their character arcs? What do they learn in the course of the book. Internal conflict, External conflict).
Logic Flaws in World Building and Plot (These two are tied in because we’re writing spec fic. Even an Urban Fantasy is going to have world building because it is our world, one step removed. A flaw in world building will throw the reader out of the story).
Dialogue (Is it appropriate for the age/education of the characters)
Setting/visuals (Does the reader feel as if they are really there? Can they see the place? Is it rich and inventive, or derivative?).
General, page by page comments.
Looking back at all this, I realise that I could write a post on each of these topics and still not do them justice.
At ROR each of us would have our say and then we’d break into general discussion, getting all enthusiastic and excited about the book. The person whose book had been critiqued would come away, their head spinning with ideas and a new perspective.Having 5- 6 people critique your book is good because if one person doesn't get something, but everyone else does, then you know it's just that person. It's not the book.
Publishing is a tough business, having a peer group who give feedback and offer support has been wonderful. I thoroughly recommend creating your own peer critique group.