I’ve recently re-discovered The Next Big Writer, an on-line work shop for aspiring and established authors of all genres.
I’ve never been all that fond of the name, but the platform has been very useful for me in terms of polishing and improving my work. Eolyn was workshopped in its entirety on tNBW, and multiple chapters of High Maga also received critiques there.
Sometime during the writing of High Maga, I drifted away from tNBW. I began working with some of my critique partners outside of the platform. Other valuable reviewers with whom I interacted at tNBW were called away by various life and publishing projects. There was a lull in the virtual writers hut, and new partners weren’t turning up to replace the ones who had moved on. In short, tNBW wasn’t offering a whole lot for me in the moment, so I signed off and sought other avenues for feedback on my writing.
Last November, as I was heading into the final stretch for this third novel, I received notification that tNBW had launched a new site. I stopped in to check it out, and was duly impressed. After taking advantage of a month-long free membership, I committed to the long haul by registering as a premium member.
As a writer, I thrive on two levels of critiques. One of these are the beta reads, when you send your completed manuscript to kind volunteers who are willing to slog through the whole thing and give you their honest opinion.
Before the beta read, I also like to have the chapter-by-chapter critique. Not everyone opts for this, but chapter-by-chapter works really well for me. As my reviewers progress through the book, their questions and criticisms help me to draw clearer connections between where a particular chapter is coming from, and where it is heading. I especially like it when reviewers say something I disagree with, because it forces me to think, to critically examine my own line of reasoning and make sure the story fits together the way I intend. And of course, if reviewers like the story, it always inspires me to continue.
A critique circle also gives one the opportunity to view other works in progress. I have read some great stories in my different critique circles, made greater still by the opportunity to banter with the author about characters and events as the novel progresses. In addition, as much as I learn from other people’s critical reviews of my work, I learn even more by critically reading and reviewing the works of others. For everyone, it is a win-win situation.
During my journey as a writer, I’ve participated in critique circles both on-line and in-person. I’ve gone from group reviews to one-on-one exchanges and back again to the group. Every step of the way, I’ve found my fellow writers’ feedback helpful. If I were to give just one piece of advice to aspiring writers, it would be this: Find a critique circle that works for you.
Some excellent posts have gone up these past couple of weeks on Heroines of Fantasy. Mark Nelson started off the year with a thought-provoking reflection on the need to refocus our dialogue in the SFF community. Kim Vandervort followed up this week with some additional insights into the art of civility and the business of writing. Please take a moment to read them both, as I think they set an excellent tone for the year to come.