Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why Novice Writers Must Join a Critique Group

Here I was, getting pretty pleased with my development as writer and posting chapter after chapter of a novel on Buzzle. com. Although I didn't get a huge following, the comments from readers reading the story, inspired me to try and finish a chapter a week. I felt I was finally beginning to apply what I learnt and getting into the 'right' writer's groove.

After the first chapter, a reader commented on her preference for writing in the past tense contrary to the present tense writing used in the story. It caused me some discomfort, but I decided to continue with posting the story as is, and the story progressed in the present tense, naturally. Things were going along just fine, although some chapters caused me some misery to write. I couldn't get comfortable with parts of the writing.

When, after the fourteenth chapter the same reader complained the tense made the work hard to read and understand, I did a double take. Where to get experienced and knowledgeable feedback?

Critique groups like My Writer's Circle and other online and offline groups play a vital part in the development of any writer. I used to visit the forum everyday, but lately time and work made me neglect that part of my usual daily ritual... to my detriment, it appeared.

Nervous and jittery, I posted the first part of the same chapter on the forum, inhaled, forced my heart back to its normal rate and with sweaty palms requested members of the forum for their feedback.

Two days later, I received the most wonderful advice which boils down to the following:

  1. Tense is a personal preference.
  2. Present tense writing is fine, but the writer must be careful with the construction of the sentences. This was the biggest problem in the chapter, making it harder to read and understand.
  3. When using the present tense, point of view (POV) must be treated with utmost respect and circumcision to avoid confusing the reader with facts known to the narrator and personal emotions and thought of the character.
  4. The thread can be viewed at:;topicseen#new
Wonderful advice once again from people writing for a living - well some of them, but mostly, all of them are much more experienced than I am and the constructive criticism is invaluable to anyone serious about writing.

So whenever you are in doubt about a part of your writing, ask the experts and fellow writers for honest critique. But above all...keep writing.

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