I am in a group that critiques my work.
If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?
I send chapters when I've got things as polished as I can possibly get them. When I think I'm ready to start sending it out to agents. I've always thought it unfair to give critiquers unpolished works, because if you haven't edited it, what kind of feedback are they going to be able to give you? Aren't they going to see problems you could have seen if you'd just spent the time to edit?
That's how I used to think, and part of me still does. I developed the attitude when I was critting over at Critters. It drove me crazy to critique some stranger's work and then have them write back and say "Oh, I know I need to fix those things. What about ___?" And I'd think "How the heck could I even pay attention to ____ when your grasp of the English language is so atrocious it was all I could do to keep reading?" I've also heard people say that they use critiquers to edit for them. (I need somebody scrape me off the floor every time I hear it.) I think that's just rude. If you're too lazy to do a proofread, then you don't care enough about your own project to waste my time.
Since I've started working with a small group of critiquers that
- I know well
- I trust to give me both useful and brutally honest feedback
- Write novel-length mss, like me
So for me, within the context of a good critique group (or when working with someone who meets the above bulleted criteria), I see no problem with sharing earlier versions of work. In those situations the person may say, "Don't worry about line edits, I know I need to work on those. Do you like my characters/how the plot is shaping up?" "Am I building tension effectively?" "Am I giving too much away?" Or whatever. I like that. I'm getting to help shape what might be a bestseller someday!
How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?
I get pretty detailed critiques, which I really appreciate more than I can express. I recently got a very detailed critique, and it's one of the best I've ever gotten. It helps when you know that the person's nitpicks are really with your best interests in mind and at heart.
I give pretty detailed critiques, too, though once in a while I have trouble finding anything wrong with a manuscript! I actually had one crit buddy call me the Editor o' Doom because I just shred things. But if I care enough to do that level of work, it's because I think the work has a lot to offer and I care about the person whose work I'm critiquing.
Do all members in your group write the same genre?
No. We all write different genres. Within one group we have adult, YA, MG, and children's fiction. Well, and I write nonfiction, too, and my group has kindly offered to read over that as well. We also have a range of genres from sf/f to romance and women's fiction. I can see benefits to both homogenous and heterogeneous groups; I definitely think it's good to have at least one person who overlaps with you genre-wise.
So dear reader, are you in a critique group? What have your experiences been?