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by Angelique Armae
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor - Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity

March 2007 Issue


Interviews with:

Josephine Piraneo - What Inklings for Earthlings is All About


Welcome to my first Inklings column. Every month I'll be doing a feature on the business side of writing paranormal romance. This can include anything from research tips to the latest market news. I'd like the column to appeal to both readers and authors alike, so if any PNR lister has an idea they think would fit INKLINGs, please email me at: . I'll also be looking for editors, agents, cover artists, etc. who might want to be featured in the future.

This month's feature is an interview with Linda Griffin, author of The Writer's Guide To Critique Groups. I hope you enjoy the article!

All the best,

An Interview With Linda Griffin, Author of

??? Your book THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO CRITIQUE GROUPS deals with various methods of critiquing from self-editing to critique groups, pretty much covering something for everyone. Can you tell a bit about what prompted you to write this book?

ANSWER: I wrote the book because I had so many authors telling me about problems they had either finding a critique group that suited them or that their critique group wasn't helping them. Some wanted to form a critique group but had no idea how to make sure they were setting up an effective group that would help them with their writing.

I think a lot of writers, beginning writers particularly, don't always understand the exact purpose of a critique group, which is to help you polish your work to the point that it's saleable. It's been my observation that a good critique group will end up with at least half their group, if not all of them, published within 5 years. Unfortunately, many people don't really understand what a critique group is or what it should do. They think that line editing is critiquing, and that isn't true. Critiquing involves evaluating the plot and characters to make sure that what the writer intends to happen is happening. Line editing is polishing sentence structure and grammar.

??? As a publisher of paranormal books, what is the biggest problem you see in submissions and how can authors improve on this by learning the fundamentals of good critiquing?

ANSWER: The biggest problem I see is that many authors seem to be "hedging their bet" when writing a paranormal. It's as if they write the story on the premise that if it doesn't sell as a paranormal, they can lift out the paranormal elements and market the book as a romance. I'm not sure if writers do this consciously or subconsciously, but the problem is, if the paranormal elements aren't integral to the storyline, then the story doesn't work. A good critique group should help the writer realize when the paranormal elements are not integral to the storyline and how to make them so. The second problem I see is tone. Most paranormals are dark and eerie. They need to start out with the dark, eerie elements from the beginning of the book and many stories don't do that, or they don't maintain that tone throughout the book. Again, a good critique group or critique partner could help the author make sure the dark, eerie tone is prevalent throughout the book.

??? What are the basics an author should look for when searching for a critique group? And do you think they should look for an overall critique group or one specifically geared toward the genre they're writing in?

ANSWER: The first thing an author should do is look at the time they have available for a critique group. A critique group should have all members writing a minimum number of pages a week, and you, as a member of the group, must be able to read and critique the others' works while still finding time to write your own book. Many times, authors join a group, not realizing the time it will entail. How much time you have to spare will determine the size of the group you can or should be in. It can also tell you if you should look for a critique partner instead of a group. The author also needs to ask themselves if they can give and take constructive criticism. It's difficult to listen to someone tear your work apart. The natural response is to get angry and retaliate by tearing the critic's work apart or to take it so personally that it makes you depressed and unable to write. You must be able to curb that instinctual response to criticism and take it in the spirit it is given. The word "critique" implies criticism, and the purpose of a critique group is to make your work better. If all you're looking for is a pat on the back and being told how wonderfully you write, then you don't want a critique group. Give your manuscript to friends and family who will love anything you write.

??? I found your book with it's 'Blueprint For A Critique' chapter to be invaluable. In my opinion, the breakdown and checklists are a must have for any author. Is there any one part of this blueprint you think is the most important for an author to be aware of?

ANSWER: I personally believe that being able to evaluate the middle of a book is the most important aspect of the blueprint. Most authors have a wonderful beginning and a wonderful ending because they know exactly how they want to start the book and how they want it to end. But books often fall flat in the middle because it's the getting from Point A to Point Z that's the difficult part of writing. If you can't keep the reader entranced through the middle of the book, it won't matter how good your beginning or your ending is. So, in my opinion, the middle is the part of the book that demands the most attention during a critique.

??? Can you give us a basic breakdown of the contents of in your book?

ANSWER: The first part of the book is geared more toward beginning writers or the writer who is no longer a beginner but is now at the point that they need help in tightening a manuscript they've written. It gives you basic questions to answer as to whether or not you're suited for a critique group or if you'd be better off with a critique partner or even staying on your own. It also helps you discover if you know exactly what a critique is and how to perform one if you don't.

Once you decide if you're suited to a critique group, you have a series of questions to determine how to choose or form a critique group. It's important that you determine the type of group that suits your needs. Some people want a group that will say, "That scene sucks swamp water." Others would be devastated by that type of group. That's why it's important that you choose a group that will help you improve your writing and your manuscript.

If you determine that you aren't suited for a critique group or don't have the time for one, you'll learn how to find and select a critique partner, and you'll learn the advantages and disadvantages of a critique partner.

Finally, there's a blueprint for a critique that will help you evaluate yours and others works, including samples that show the difference between a critique and line editing. I think this part of the book is good for any writer, beginning or seasoned, because it makes you focus on the elements that make a good story.

I've received a lot of feedback from authors on the blueprint. Most felt that they and/or members of their critique group really didn't know how to do a proper critique, and the blueprint gave them the information they needed to do so.

But as I say in the book, a critique group or a critique partner is simply a writing tool. The most important question you need to ask yourself is: Will a critique of my work make me a better writer? You can find an answer to that question by honestly answering the questions in my book and determining if you're truly suited for a critique atmosphere, or if you're the type of writer that will do better being on your own.  

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