Who Has Your Back?

02 Aug

I’ve been thinking about how important it is to have people you can trust in your writing circle. In the process, I’ve discovered one important thing, you can’t always rely on logic. (Good news for me.)

Writing is hard. I’m not talking about craft which is hard enough. I’m talking about the hours spent alone. The ones making the right word choices, placing the scenes exactly in the correct sequence. Then, agonizing over the story arc, the character arcs. Do they all fit? When we’re done, we’ve poured our life and heart on to a page. Then, what do we do? We send it out into an ungrateful world, only to get a rejection scrawled in the corner of our very own query letter. They couldn’t even be bothered to use their own paper.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we put those snippets of defeat in a file or binder and save them, knowing one day the call will come.

No matter what we think, we can’t do it alone. Oh, sure we sit at the computer alone for hours on end, but the moments we treasure are those spent with our fellow writers. And not just any old group of word scribblers, but those we trust.

The real trick is finding those people you not only trust, but admire and like. If you’re really lucky—and there is a lot of luck involved in writing at all levels—you’ll find those people. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, and you’ll be betrayed along the way, but it is worth the journey.

The right people make the process easier. I’m not saying the actual work will come in a big wave of euphoria. If those around you not only care, but are eager to help you when you need it, give you a swift kick when you need it, and put your commas in the right place when you need it, then the process will be at least be less stressful. And at best rewarding in ways that aren’t on the page.

Lots of people belong to critique groups. I looked up the word and found to critique is to review or analyze critically. The origin of the word is French from 1695-1705. The French got it from the Greek word kritik, skilled in judging; able to discern. Not to be confused with critic or criticism.

That sounds very sterile. A stuffy group sitting around a library table in a room lined with leather-bound books, their reading glasses poised on the ends of their noses, and red pens ready to bloody the page in front of them. That doesn’t fit my critique group. Nope, we’ve been known to bust out a bottle of wine when the sex scenes are read—it makes it a lot easier and no one knows if the flushed cheeks are from the spirits or embarrassment. We’ve sat in bars in New York laughing so loud we get dirty looks and we don’t care. We care about each other. When one of us has a triumph in their life (writing or not), it is an accomplishment for us all. We delight in each others successes and gather in support when the disappointments or troubles come around.

The point here is don’t pick your critique partners based on the fact that they’re published, about to be published, you think they’re better writers than you are, or they can advance your career. Don’t let some perceived prestige guide you. Find people you really like, people you care about, and who care about you. If you don’t, things will go badly I promise.

My girls (I don’t think of them as just a critique group) are the people I can call in the middle of the night to come bail me out of jail…if they aren’t there with me.

The point here is pick your critique group with your heart as much as with your head and success will find you on all fronts.

I know with our group, they have my back and I have theirs.


Posted by on August 2, 2011 in friends, writers, writing


Tags: ,

16 responses to “Who Has Your Back?

  1. johannaharness

    August 2, 2011 at 6:44 AM

    I’m laughing at the thought of you all being in jail together. I can picture the scene in your book already!

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 2, 2011 at 9:18 AM

      I hope we don’t, but at least we’d be together.

  2. Janis McCurry

    August 2, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Very true. There are lots of reasons to join a critique group. Be sure to choose the right ones.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM

      It can make all the difference in the world.

  3. Meredith Conner

    August 2, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    So true, so true Peggy! There isn’t a 9 to 5 building where we can go as writers to do our work, discuss plot points around the coffee machine, murder at lunch or the best word choice in the break room.We have to find that support elsewhere and sadly a lot of writers get very little support for their work – so your “got-your-back possee” are your lifeline at times. Or cellmates, either works 🙂

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 3, 2011 at 9:17 AM

      It’s so true, I feel bad for those who aren’t as fortunate as I am to have a great critique group. I’ve heard horror stories about critique groups. We’re lucky to have good friends who incidentally, write

  4. Carley Ash

    August 2, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    That was absolutely beautiful, Peggy.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 3, 2011 at 9:18 AM

      Thanks. Couldn’t have written it without my girls.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    August 2, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    True words, Peggy! And may I say – in addition to the very powerful message, I particularly like how you played with sentence structure in this blog. 😉

    I know far too many lawyers, so we can each use our single phone call to acquire a superb defense team.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 3, 2011 at 9:24 AM

      Sentence structure playing? It’s all pure luck or error. It goes from my brain to the page without the benefit of a sane editor. No filter. Sort of like when I talk.
      Lawyers, we’re all set.

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    August 2, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    What a great post, Peggy. My critique partners have seen me through the most traumatic experiences (aka author photo shoots, makeovers, and clothes shopping.) I wouldn’t go anywhere without them.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 3, 2011 at 9:25 AM

      And we wouldn’t leave home without you.

  7. Mary Vine

    August 2, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Maya’s Gold would never have been published without critique partners.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 3, 2011 at 9:27 AM

      They’re so important. You can’t always see the plot holes, or your overuse of your favorite words without them.

  8. lynn mapp

    August 2, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    Peggy, a bad group is worse than having no group. It can drain you.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 3, 2011 at 9:28 AM

      You are so right. I don’t know what I’d do without mine.


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