I've always thought that it would be really beneficial to be part of a writers' group. I envisioned weekly or biweekly meetings where we would critique the selected writer's chapter, rotating through people's turns. As we wrote, we would be helping each other improve and perfect our stories. Optimum efficiency, and all that.
And then I read Stephen King's On Writing, and he brought up a downside to critique groups I'd never considered: Do I really want to have my WIP critiqued as it is written?
Having just started my new novel (Faye), I've been pondering this question as I write. Do I really want someone looking over my shoulder, so to speak, at this point? Do I really want people prying into my story, picking apart the good and bad just yet, while the story is still in the conception phase?
The answer surprised me: No, I definitely don't want anyone else in my head while I'm writing the first draft of this story. Me and the characters have already crowded the place up. I don't need critique partners slowing down my rhythm, chiming in at the back of my thoughts, making me second-guess word choices or pacing.
I want to write. I want to get the story down on paper. I want it to flow from me and me alone, without anyone else's input, even the input I only imagine they'll say at our next critique session. Even Cody, the man I love dearly, endangers his life when he suggests story ideas, and that's when I solicit his advice. Having more people's opinions would be too much.
However, I still want other people's help. I don't know if this is being selfish, but I want to dictate the timing of critiques. I want to be able to pass off my whole novel to several trusted critiquers and get great, needed feedback all at once, and only after the whole novel is there.
Maybe if I were in a situation where I got regular feedback as I wrote, I would feel differently, but right now, King's idea of writing the first draft with the door closed, not letting anyone else read it until I'm finished—that sounds like the best plan for me. Even then, I want one editing pass between me and the first reader.
I worry that my method will be too slow when I have a contractual deadline, but it's what is working for me now, so it's what I'll stick to.
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