Writing, Community, and Critique

I live in a small town.

It’s not the kind of small where everybody knows each other, but everybody knows everybody’s families. It’s the kind of small where they once paid to re-do a census, because they just couldn’t believe the town hadn’t grown. (It hadn’t.) The kind of small town where people are quick to inform you we are not a small town.

We’re a small town.

And, as small town goes, this is one of the good ones. Nice to look at. Low crime rate. Good employment figures.

I’m not really a small town person. I happen to like the city stuff. University lectures, and art galleries, and bookstores.  And writers’ groups.

I  left my writers’ group behind (in an art gallery, btw) when I came here. And that was the last time I sat down with other writers in real, share a plate of brownies, real life.

Don’t get me wrong. There are writers, here. Probably more than I know about, and there are a lot that I know about. I’ve met one or two through work, and another one through Nanowrimo, and even my own next-door-neighbor (the one with the German Shepherd, not the one with the trampoline) is a writer. Not that it’s something we talk about.

Deep breath.

There is not enough cohesion. Plenty of writers, but not enough to hold them all together in a regularly-scheduled, group-holding, critique-partnering community.

Some of us work odd hours. That’s me. Some of us work the opposite odd hours. One of us is a shut-in, or very nearly so. And then, there’s the genre issue. You know. The ever-present Christian/Erotica rift.

It’s interesting that in my previous writers’ group, somehow, all of that seemed to matter less. I think it’s because there were enough more people that there wasn’t a cliff to fall over. There were people to fill in the awkward silences, and sorta bridge the personality differences. And enough that one or two people not showing up didn’t result in somebody alone at the library.

I don’t know just where the “writing” end of things leaves off and the “social” end begins, but the less you have in common, professionally, the more “social” has to take over. And that’s pretty much where things break down.

Clearly, we need more brownies.


  1. Reply

    Even in a city as large as DC it’s tough to put together the right critique group: partly because of logistics, but also because of individual critiquing styles. I’m in 3 different groups, as I’m working on 3 projects. Some members want to edit every line, some are constantly suggesting major rewrites including the totally unhelpful “start over.” I’m in the middle and love to give and get suggestions such as “This hook needs to be stronger,” and “Your character is coming off as mean. Is that what you want?” But all of my critique partners give me important ‘aha moments’ advice from time to time.

    I do believe the social time is the big unifier. Writing is a lonely profession. Having Brie and crackers with each other is like being in a support group!

    • Reply

      One of the best critiques I’ve ever gotten was something down the middle path. A friend told me she didn’t like the main character’s husband, because he came across as smug. And maybe a little bit of a control freak. I still don’t know what the *right* response is, when your wife tells you she’s going to go hunt down a serial killer, but I did manage to de-smug him a lot.

      • Reply

        Exactly the kind of critique I love, because even if I initially disagree it makes me take a serious look at my character. It’s concrete without being too specific or telling me exactly how I should have written it—don’t you hate that? I like questions, too. “Why did your character say that? What was her motivation?”

  2. Reply

    Hello Karen,
    Yes, the middle ground sort of critique partner is just what I’m looking for. I will stick with my twice-monthly critique group, despite the punctuation-obsessed members, because I always leave with something valuable, often from the most unexpected source. We meet in coffee shops, though, so I’m not allowed to bring brownies. Too bad.

    • Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love my punctuation-obsessed friends, but more when I’m close to the point of submitting, than when I’m doing big, structural things.

      • Reply

        Because that’s called ‘editing.’ One of my partners thinks you should never use adverbs and circles every one and tells me what you should substitute. Every author I’ve ever read uses adverbs! I don’t point this out because it would only use up valuable time.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: