Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WRITERLY WISDOM: Jim Averbeck


 It's time once again for WRITERLY WISDOM where every Wednesday we will sneak a peek into the world of writing and publication. My next guest is award-winning children's book author, Jim Averbeck, who shows us how to create a successful critique group.  Take it away Jim...


The 5 Cs of a Successful Critique Group
By Jim Averbeck

I am a very lucky writer. With some friends, I founded a critique group, the Revisionaries, in 1998 and that group is still going strong. When we started we were all unpublished and just learning the craft.  Now everyone in the group is multi published by prestigious houses. I’ve lost track of the awards, honors, stars and contracts we have under our collective belt.  And I marvel at the longevity of the group. So, how did we manage to stick around long enough to find success?  I give you the 5 Cs of an accomplished critique group.






Communicate:  One of the most important things my group did was to make it clear from the beginning that we had high expectations of anyone who joined. Members were expected to pursue their writing education by signing up for classes, attending conferences, and reading extensively, both craft books and current and classic bestsellers. We expected people to come to the meetings, whether they had work or not. We expected participation and cooperation as we all strove to find our voice and our place in the industry.






Commit:  Once we found people who met our expectations, we very explicitly made them commit to the hard work ahead of us. There were no formal rituals- no killing of chickens or drinking of blood – but we did have a very formal meeting where we outlined our goals, both those of the group and our individual goals. We made this a yearly custom. Each year around Christmas we set aside our stories and reimagine what we want to do with our work and our creative lives. We commit to following through (and talk about how we did the previous year.)  This might sound a bit grim, but we float our goals on a sea of wine and good food, so it’s really something to which we look forward.






Create: This is the fun part. The part all writers and illustrators live for: the spark of ideas, the bringing together of words and sentences (or lines and colors for our illustrators).  And, of course, the sharing of what we made.





Critique: This may sound like a no-brainer. Of course you critique in a critique group.  But I have been surprised to hear many stories of crit groups that become mutual admiration societies, or moan and groan sessions, or just fun parties. Sure it is important to support each other, and to listen to each other vent on issues in the industry. But ultimately you are there to help each other improve your work. It’s time to put on your big boy (or girl) pants, grow a thick skin, and listen to what people are telling you. You’ll find that each person has something at which they specialize. This one is great at finding just the right word. That one is superb at pinning down the emotional heart of your story. Another knows every punctuation rule in the book. Learn to listen. You needn’t take all the advice given, but you should consider it all.  






Celebrate: This is the other fun part. When someone sells a book, or wins an award, or gets a starred review, take the time to celebrate. Buy a cake. Do a dance. Have a party. And most importantly – pop open the champagne.

Because that is the sixth “C” of a successful critique group.

Champagne.

Cheers!






Jim Averbeck works, plays, and evades the law in the San Francisco Bay Area. Between dodging the falling bodies of vertiginous blondes, crouching to avoid killer birds, and taking quick and fearful showers behind a triple locked bathroom door, he writes and illustrates for children. His first book, In a Blue Room, was a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book. His popular books, Except If and Oh No, Little Dragon! feature charming protagonists with long pointy teeth. His book The Market Bowl was a JLG Premiere Selection. A Hitch at the Fairmont, his first novel, will be released Summer 2014 from Simon and Schuster. Spy agencies can find Jim online at www.jimaverbeck.com.



16 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hi Julie! I'm glad you liked the post...lots of great advice here...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  2. Thanks for sharing the great words from Averbeck. I belong to a critique group. We analyze illustrations as well as the writings. We usually meet at a coffee house or children's library or a sandwich spot conducive to reading and chatting. The 5 C's hit the spot. Thanks Jim for writing this article and thanks Donna Martin for posting it on your blog.

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    1. Hi Sandie! I have belonged to a couple of critique groups over the years, but they seem to fall by the wayside...don't know if I somehow fail them or LIFE just gets in the way. I would LOVE to be a part of a critique groups or even one on one but I just don't seem to have much luck finding a good fit...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  3. You hit that right on, Donna. Those five things are what make a critique group GREAT!!!

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    1. Hi Christine! Jim did a fabulous job with this week's post and I'm glad you liked it...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  4. Replies
    1. Hi Erik! I hope by the end of the year you will have a stockpile of useful posts to come back to again and again...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  5. Great post, Jim. Looks like you have a rock star group! I will be sharing this with my critique group. Donna, thanks for having Jim on your blog.

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    1. Hi Romelle! I'm having such a great time with this series and I'm learning so many new things...I hope you are too.

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  6. Great post! I'm going to share this with my critique group to help rein us in. Lately we've been all over the place. Got to pick up Mr. Averbeck's books!

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    1. Hi Donna! I'm glad you found this post helpful. I have added Jim's books to my "gotta read list"...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  7. Wonderful advice from a talented man with a LOT to celebrate. Thank you Jim and Donna.

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    1. Hi Ashley and welcome to my blog! I'm glad you like the post and hopefully you will be able to use Jim's wisdom with your own critique group if you have one...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  8. Critique groups can be so awesome. I was in a great one in Albuquerque. Here in North Dakota, I'm still looking for even a small group of people who are serious about writing. Or writing at all. I am grateful for the group of online friends who are happy to give a critique when needed.

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    1. Hi Karen! It's taking me a bit to get used to your new name...I'm so used to seeing Karen Elliott and now when I see Karen Anderson, it takes me a second to make the connection...lol...

      I face the same challenge where I live. I'm not sure if it's my inability to maybe meet at night due to my crazy teaching schedule or whether this area just doesn't have writers interested in critique groups. I too am grateful for my wonderful online friends who take pity on me and offer critiques when I need them...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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