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Critique Circle: My "Single Parent" Support Group -- by Lindy Moone


I recently published my first In(s)ane Mystery, "Hyperlink from Hell: A Couch Potato's Guide to the Afterlife." I'd like to share how Critique Circle helped me do that. (Warning: there will be metaphors, and puns, and gushing praise. If you can't stomach that sort of thing, look away.)

on Amazon KindleAll writers--married or single--know that writing takes time and patience. It takes solitude, too: a room of its own. I sometimes feel like an overwhelmed single parent, raising little story monsters. But I've learned that I needn't do it all alone.

Novels need nurturing. Stories need discipline. Some early drafts are toddlers--out of focus, out of control, the Wildly Dancing Children of a frazzled single mom. Some are wallflowers, too shy to be noticed. My own tweens are "hyper," so exuberant that I just can't bear to stifle their energy. But who'd invite a single mom with three wild kids into their home? Who'd want to read my early drafts? No one, except other single parents. Other writers. 

Many writers belong to small, face-to-face critique groups. That's great, but it's not enough--and it isn't possible for me, living halfway around the world from my homeland. Critique Circle is world-wide, with thousands of members of all levels of expertise. Some are established authors (their first-borns out on their own) and some still have morning sickness.

Critique Circle came into my life just when I'd finally found some ambition--although not for me, for my books. My babies. That metaphor--books as babies--is battle-scarred; parents of flesh-and-blood children take umbrage. But here's where the metaphor holds up: We have  aspirations for our books far beyond those we hold for ourselves. We want them to be loved and cherished. We hope they will be laughed with, not at, and we don't want them to be bullied. We insist they shine at their chosen genre--whatever they need to be--so they can hold their heads high. And while our books are still developing, we hope other parents will be supportive.

After posting excerpts from "Hyperlink from Hell" and digesting the feedback from CC's "critters," I knew where my chapters were getting into mischief. Here, they were chattering about something unimportant ("Too much exposition"); there, they'd gotten stuck on a merry-go-round ("This isn't going anywhere"). In other places, they'd started babbling ("I'm confused"), or were hiding things in sticky little fingers behind their backs ("If your narrator knows this now, we should, too"). My kids still have some bad habits ("Do you really need all these parentheses?"), but they're growing up fast.

Even so, a critique group isn't for dumping our story-raising on someone else; it's for learning from each other. It's for sharing expertise and time and thought, for supporting budding talent or letting someone down gently, if need be. I'm thrilled to have helped raise other writers' stories, and grateful to have made the friends and contacts who convinced me--when it was time--to nudge my eldest out into the world. Now, they're helping me raise its sequel.


Lindy Moone lives with a Sumo-wrestling cat, half a dog, and a whole husband on the Aegean coast of Turkey. She has a website, "Literary Subversions," and a blog, "Belly-up!"  Her first novel, Hyperlink from Hell, is an absurd tale of kidnapping and murder, of time travel and wardrobe malfunction, of Post-traumatic "Death" Syndrome, of good versus "bat." It made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. That's a start! 

Posted by Lindy Moone 9 Apr 2013 at 03:31
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Responses to this blog

Tiaclare 9 Apr 2013 at 08:27  
Congratulations on the ABNA second round and sharing your story. Yes, we do go through a lot of with our book kids as well as our real ones. How do you live with half a dog??? Love that PTDS instead of PTSD twist. Good luck!
Lindymoon 9 Apr 2013 at 09:33  
Thanks, Tiaclare.

Re half a dog: We share the dog with another family. We inherited him from a heartbroken young neighbor who had to move back to his family in the Black Sea region of Turkey, and couldn't take him along. Then, when we moved to a new house in our little fishing village by the sea (where dogs, cats, chickens and kids run free — not to mention the odd goat, sheep, donkey, cow and scorpion), he found another family to love, halfway between our old and new houses. So he splits his time between us, and the rest of the villagers feed him, too. He is well loved, answers to half a dozen names, and milks his popularity shamelessly!
Jjeffries 9 Apr 2013 at 12:27  
So, the cat wears a big diaper? Is really fat? Throws salt around? Thanks for sharing about CC. CC (and you. You aren't the only one who can be a bit excessive with parentheses) have really helped make my plays better.
Demonqueen 9 Apr 2013 at 13:56  
Another great blog, Lindy. And so true. Love it.

I had a peak on Amazon at your book. It looks really interesting and I've saved it in my basket as a definite read for later on this year.

Lindymoon 10 Apr 2013 at 00:03  
Thanks, folks! And my book isn't for everyone (whose is?) — it's manic-by-design, and I hope the blurb and reviews weed out any readers whose taste lies elsewhere. I guess it's for people who like puzzles, who want their nonsense with some underlying meaning, but don't like being bashed over the head with the author's philosophy.

About the cat: just fat, and uses it to advantage, but only over the puniest of the local cats. Doesn't do them any damage, though, since they see her barreling at them, and flee! In turn, she runs from the bullies among them — gives them her food, then asks for more. She's a real chicken when it comes to... chickens! I can't seem to get her to lose weight. Wonder if she's being fed by others, like the dog.
Petesdiner 10 Apr 2013 at 05:18  
Pitch-perfect analogy-exploitation, as ever.
Breeze 10 Apr 2013 at 06:10  
Thanks for always giving us a laugh. We used to have half a dog until his other master died, then the dog joined us full-time. The other master left a widow, but Rover liked men best.
Lindymoon 10 Apr 2013 at 08:30  
@ Pete: I don't know what analogy-exploitation means! If it's something bad, private message me so I can weep alone!
Lindymoon 10 Apr 2013 at 08:40  
@ Pete, again: Do you mean the post is exploitative because I'm linking like mad, and talking about my book? That's true, but it's because this is one of the "Authors' Spotlight" posts that CC requested published members to write. The guidelines are to talk about our books and tell how CC helped.
Petesdiner 10 Apr 2013 at 10:55  
Oh, no no. It was meant as compliment. Of the highest order, too. No one can ride an analogy quite the way you can, if you ask me. It's a spectacle by its own right, and then add to that all the other stuff. Even Igor's got stomach-cramps.

(Sorry to have, you know, put my foot in my (or really your) mouth, again. As penance, I'll continue to eat the whole of my left Nike.)

(And, for what it's worth, your book's at the top of my books-to-get-once-Mum-gives-me-a-Kindle-for-my-birthday list.)
If the Devil is in the details, sheep know of no evil

Lindymoon 10 Apr 2013 at 12:11  
@ Pete: No problem... It's so easy for the printed word to be misunderstood, even by writers. Maybe we should ask the moderators to introduce or somehow set apart the Author's Spotlight posts ? since it does look more than a bit self-serving. The thing is, I really reluctantly decided to start a blog and website (although now I'm enjoying them), and to try to "self-promote" (which sounds like something dirty to me). Only made my first comment on another's blog a few months ago, and feel like an idiot shouting "look at me!"

Like lots of writers, I'm normally the wallflower/hide-under-the-bed-and-hope-the-book-sells type, despite my manic writing style. Trying to come out of my tortoise shell, to try to sound professional. Haven't even gotten up the courage to ask any reviewers to have a look! Luckily, there were volunteers, or I wouldn't have a single review on Amazon, I guess!
Purplek 14 Apr 2013 at 14:13  
Great post, Lindy. And congratulations on your book. I agree with everything you said. Indeed, I think you critted some early chapters of my own WIP. My baby is not weeks or months but years overdue!
Lindymoon 15 Apr 2013 at 03:25  
@ Purplek: Thanks (and keep pushing!)

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