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Historical Fiction Critique Group

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Justin Swanton
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Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
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Historical Fiction Critique Group

Post by Justin Swanton » Wed January 30th, 2013, 11:34 am

Anyone here know about them? Their link here. They do mutual critiques of each other's MS chapters. I have submitted 2 chapters of my WIP and received excellent critiques.

The rule is to submit one chapter, then do at least 2 critiques of other members' chapters before submitting the next chapter. A chapter gets 4 critiques, possibly 5.

A very pleasant group and I have found them a great help in the writing process.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed January 30th, 2013, 4:16 pm

Sounds like a good idea, Justin. It's rather difficult to get/give honest feedback from friends/ relatives/ other writers you become close to. I rarely agree to beta any more, mostly because there's nothing but grief in it for me. If I give full measure for my time spent (as in, I tell the writer everything I know that would help) I usually end up with them breaking off the relationship. And if I don't I feel like a fraud who is both wasting my time and damning them to mediocrity by praising what isn't praiseworthy.

I have several betas who are readers, not writers. Problem is, although they do tell me a few honest things, they want to get the rest of the story NOW and so they don't want to tell me things that will make me go back and fix. Last year I went through a search and after five (expensive) attempts, found a professional freelance editor who pushes me to my upper limit. We have a good relationship: I pay her, and she is honest where I need it, and promptly, too.

And then at the end of the current draft, I will still run it by about ten of my faithful betas to get different views on the story flow.

The big problem I see with all these critique groups is that they only work on one or two beginning chapters, and my main gripe about novels is that nobody seemed to be minding the story flow. For that, you need somebody who will go through the whole thing sequentially, and that takes time. Which is why it is best to find the right editor and just pay them, because if they are good enough to help you, then their time is worth paying for.

Just my two cents.

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Justin Swanton
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Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
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Post by Justin Swanton » Wed January 30th, 2013, 6:59 pm

[quote=""MLE""]

The big problem I see with all these critique groups is that they only work on one or two beginning chapters, and my main gripe about novels is that nobody seemed to be minding the story flow.

Just my two cents.[/quote]

This group go through a writer's entire MS. The only restriction is that one has to receive 4 crits for a chapter before one can post the next chapter, and one has to post 2 crits for each chapter one puts up. The previous chapters are there for anyone who wants to get the big picture (story flow etc.)

Not the same as a dedicated editor I agree, but worthwhile nonetheless.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Thu January 31st, 2013, 8:13 am

The big problem I see with all these critique groups is that they only work on one or two beginning chapters, and my main gripe about novels is that nobody seemed to be minding the story flow.
I've worked with a lot of critique groups and really benefited. One has to be cautious, though, even with the very best critique groups. MLE, you've put your finger on one of the biggest shortcomings of any feedback that comes on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Getting the big picture of a novel to work right is crucial, and for that, the only really helpful feedback comes from someone willing to read a manuscript from beginning to end, the way readers of a published novel do, and pinpoint what is and isn't working from the standpoint of storytelling flow. That said, a lot of other things are also crucial, and a good critique group can help with a lot of those!
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu January 31st, 2013, 4:15 pm

I'm not knocking critique groups. They have helped me immensely, especially for the first 900K words of my writing journey. getting feedback is critical, and too many writers work in a lonely vacuum, separated from the people they are (theoretically, at least) trying to entertain or inform.

I think my salvation as a writer is that my first love is oral storytelling, which is a performance art. I didn't start under that label -- I actually was just trying to sell people on going on a llama packtrip with our outfitting business. But if you show up at a public venue with an exotic animal in hand, you find yourself telling the same little vignettes (I always answer questions with stories, it makes the info stick!). And each time, you watch their eyes, hear their responses, and the next time you use the lines that worked best and ditch the boring bits.

This is especially critical when it is a mixed audience of adults and children. Lose the kid's attention, and they are around the backside of your critters, giving them grief.

And then when we folded the outfitting business, schools / churches / groups still wanted me to come talk with my critters. I quoted them $400 for the two hours, which I thought would make them go away and leave me alone. It didn't. So I did that for another several years.

Now I do very few llama talks, but I'm into re-enacting (courtesy of the Daughter-unit persuading the dh.) And what is my role at Faire? You guessed it -- storyteller.

And back to my original point-- writers need to test their whole work on a number of different consumers, adjusting it as they go. That's what a storyteller does.

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Thu January 31st, 2013, 4:21 pm

I quoted them $400 for the two hours, which I thought would make them go away and leave me alone. It didn't.
How cool is that!
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu January 31st, 2013, 5:04 pm

It WAS fun. I never envisioned myself as a speaker, but for a while I thought I might do that as a retirement career. But the truth is, it takes a LOT out of you. After every gig, I would feel completely drained for about two days. I thought it must have something to do with the critters, although I'd been doing everything imaginable with my faithful llamas since '81. But now I do a history talk called "Pirate Sails and Caravan Trails--trade goods to die for" -- mostly with re-enactor groups, but sometimes schools -- and it's just as exhausting. I think it must be something about getting paid. You feel that you need to give it your all, and so you are 'on' for the whole time, including the coming and going.

I suppose that is why I drag my feet on publishing my now six-novel series, just endlessly improving them and sending them around my ever-widening circle of betas. I know very well what kind of energy the necessary publicity entails, and I'd rather just write another novel!

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Fri February 1st, 2013, 4:30 pm

I would like to join, but I am nervous. I can handle constructive criticism but destructive criticism does not benefit anyone. Would I be better having a beta reader then?

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri February 1st, 2013, 6:16 pm

All criticism is constructive. If the writer defines it as destructive, that is a sign they need to grow a thicker skin.

Think: that anybody took the time to read any part of your work, and then beyond that took the time to comment on it, is a gift to you. Time is precious and irretrievable.

If they made negative comments, that is twice the gift. It is much easier to say nice things and have everybody like you. But you don't need to hear about the parts where you are good -- a writer needs to know where they did NOT please the reader. Those are the places they need to work on.

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Fri February 1st, 2013, 7:45 pm

[quote=""MLE""]All criticism is constructive. If the writer defines it as destructive, that is a sign they need to grow a thicker skin.

Think: that anybody took the time to read any part of your work, and then beyond that took the time to comment on it, is a gift to you. Time is precious and irretrievable.

If they made negative comments, that is twice the gift. It is much easier to say nice things and have everybody like you. But you don't need to hear about the parts where you are good -- a writer needs to know where they did NOT please the reader. Those are the places they need to work on.[/quote]

I agree with you for the most part. But as a writer I do not just want to hear 'this sucks.' Please tell me what you did not like and how I can improve on my MS. My skin is a lot thicker than it was but I still prefer detailed descriptions of what my reader liked/didn't like.

THis may be a generation gap, MLE. I'm only 26, and in my generation people either seem to love something or hate it and we are very crass to each other for the most part, especially on sites like YouTube and Facebook. With the generation below me, it is even worse! I am probably the last generation that will like traditional books and not be entirely digital. This is in some ways a blessing, but the way my generation acts, is part of the dumbing down of America, IMO.That is why I prefer older people like yourself to critique my work. My peers will either gush over it or hate it and not give me any useful feedback. Am I making sense?

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