I had an almost finished short story for several months now. At last I got over my procrastination, finished my edits and gave it to my husband who is my alpha reader. He gives useful feedback and the stories he likes the most are the stories I’ve been able to sell, so he has good taste too.
The ‘Now what?” in the title is about critique groups for writers. I am a member of a couple, and I’ve given critiques. I enjoy doing it and like what I get to read more than not, but I’ve never submitted my own story for feedback. I wonder if I should. There is lots of contradictory advice on this topic (or on all writing related topics perhaps?) out there in the web spaces. Some writers say critique from other writers is a must, others say no, it’s a waste of time, just do your best and submit and keep going. I imagine that it depends. Doesn’t everything? I can completely see how a really good critique group could be super helpful, and a bad one would be worse than no critique group. That doesn’t help me decide if I want to trust my story to a group yet.
Obviously, I don’t love rejection, but so far the rejection letters I’ve received, even the form ones are mostly kind. I don’t think editors like being cruel in general. And I get that even good stories can be hard to place because there are more good stories written than there are places to print them. So just sending the stories out and getting rejections is something I’ve learned to handle. Yet the idea of someone I don’t know, or don’t know well picking apart my story in detail to my face, even if they’re nice about it, horrifies me. Is this something I need to get over, or is it something I can just skip without worrying overmuch about it?
I will stay a member of these group because the process of critiquing other’s work helps me think about a story and what helps it work, so It’s good for me. Plus, as I said before, I’ve gotten to read some gems either before they’re published, or that no one else has gotten to read at all. For now though, I think I’ll just keep going with my process. If I feel a story is ready, I’ll send it out to markets. Maybe when I have a story that I feel isn’t quite working but I don’t know why, or one that can’t seem to find a home when I send it out – maybe those are the stories that need to go to a critique group.
Other writers out there. Do you use a critique group? If so, do you send them everything, or do you have another system for what you share?