Last summer, I was ambitious enough (and totally naive) to join the Summer Chapter Post and Critique Marathon over at the Speculative Fiction Group of AQC (Agent Query Connect). Each week, participants got to post a chapter of their work up for other writers to poke, prod, comment on, analyze, peer at with a humongous magnifying glass, tear apart with their teeth…oh wait, that was Jaws. Actually, my fellow writers over there were beyond awesome. Really guys, you were! At the end of the week, you had to tally up the votes–yeses for getting to post the next chapter; no’s for ‘um, this is ok but not good enough…revise and repost and we’ll vote again’.
I learned so much from that experience. True, I was pumping out words every week to meet the posting deadline, but it helped push my word count. I mean, I had a WIP, but everytime I’d go and review the feedback I would immediately revise my chapters before posting them. It really was a marathon–you know that feeling when you’re running and your legs turn jelly on you, and you’re oh so tempted to curl up on the path (oh nice rocky path), or if you’re on the treadmill your inner self is yelling Just push that STOP button, for the love of…. Yep, you know what I’m talking about. True, I was drowning in my sweat everytime I would open my email to see if there were any new critiques, (Hey, it was summer. And I have hyperhidrosis.) but it was all fun.
And of course, when you’re taking, you have to give as well. It’s the rule of the universe…only, there’s not many people who’ve actually looked this up in the Great Manual of the Cosmic Universe. It’s right next to Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Geez, I’m a babbling mouth today. Sorry! But my point is, in order to get crits, we had to give crits to every other participant in the marathon.
Let’s do the math now. If in a week, there were 10 chapters up for critique, then we would have to read 10 chapters and offer crit on each one. No Wow, this is great. The End. We’re talking in-depth crits, baby! Show us what you’ve got! Assuming every chapter averages 10 pages, in five days you would have ended up reading 10 x 10=100 pages. Not including your own, which you would be furiously polishing, waxing, and shining for next week’s posting. AND those are just AVERAGE numbers. Some chapters ran the gamut from 5 pages to 25 pages long. Anyone can join in at any week, so I think at one point, we had 18 participants.
Wow, you say? Yes, wow indeed. And I had an incredible Gandalf moment.
What do you mean you’ve never heard of Gandalf? Go watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and come back when you’re done. That probably takes a whole day…9 hours? 10?
Okay people, eyes here now. So Gandalf the Grey theoretically died but came back as Gandalf the White. He picked up more awesome powers after his fight with the Balrog (and his demise), so he turned into this White Shining Dude. My WIP was essentially the gray version of Gandalf until I went and did the marathon, had a 6-month writing hiatus, and came back with a stronger, whiter, version of my story.
So, if you think critique groups are scary, you are absolutely right. But you’ll need one. Plus, I hear they pass out virtual cookies every now and then. Don’t be afraid. You are guaranteed to make friends along the way, and tighten your prose at the same time. How cool is that.
You can thank me later…by er, following my blog? Okay, okay, I’ll leave it to karma. BTW, there’s another Summer Chapter Posting and Critique Marathon coming your way over at AQC. Check it out, if you’ve a mind to! Maybe a picture of Gandalf the White will inspire you–>