Monday, June 21, 2010
Mentor Monday: Who's Your First Reader?
I attended the NESCBWI Annual Regional Conference in May and found myself chatting with a small group of writers I'd never met before. These folks were all first-time conference attendees and as yet unpublished. The conversation turned to critique groups, and I voiced my opinion that a good critique group is a great thing. One of the writers said that she really didn't need a group because she had a master's degree in English.
Oooookay. Forget that that was kind of a slap in the face to those of us in critique groups. I know she didn't mean it that way, but that's exactly the way it came off. I explained that critique groups aren't about correcting grammar and spelling. If you can't put words together coherently and cohesively, writing professionally may not be your destiny. Seeking critique does not mean you are a weak writer. It means you are a human writer, and we humans aren't infallible.
Before all of you infallible lone wolf writers out there get your hackles up about not needing critique, let me ask you something. How many times has your editor called you up after a first read of your manuscript to tell you it was perfection and not to change a word?
So, have we established the importance of good critique? I'm not going to get into what exactly constitutes good critique. Mur already did a great job of that last year. What I will do is leave you with author Ann Patchett's thoughts on first readers. (In case you don't have time to listen, Ann gives first readers two thumbs up.)