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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.)
All 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!