Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fields of Paper


Let me walk through the fields of paper
touching with my wand
dry stems and stunted
butterflies....
~Denise Levertov, "A Walk through the Notebooks"


Don’t we all wish for this? Each time I read this quote I am filled with a longing I can’t define. Something intangible – but it is tangible, I tell myself, with enough talent, effort, patience, luck. So many “if only’s” and “maybe when’s” accompany us on this journey toward…something.


I think I’m feeling a little blue today. Maybe it’s because it’s been a while since I’ve heard anything – positive or negative – from my floating queries. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a critique group and have realized how much I could benefit from one. The wonderful manuscript critique I won from Angela at The Bookshelf Muse was a revelation to me. (THANK YOU, ANGELA!) I made some of the same mistakes I drill my composition students about over and over again. Things that would have jumped off the page at me in one of my student’s papers went unnoticed in my own work. Why is that?


I think of how much stronger my story will be now, and it’s exciting – and depressing. Today, I've decided to begin my quest for a critique partner or group. I now see how valuable they are!
Angela, you rock! ;-)

So...how do I find a partner or group of people to share this journey with? Suggestions?

(I just noticed Terresa at The Chocolate Chip Waffle has a similar post today. Hop on over and share your words of wisdom with her, too!)

22 comments:

Valerie Geary said...

I have a random idea... email me for more info: valgeary@gmail.com ;)

Bethany Mattingly said...

I don't really know how to get a critique group either. I have two people who read my stuff but I'd really like a couple more. I'll be one of your critique partners if you'll be mine! :)

I always miss stuff in my own work, too. Commas are really a problem for me. I think sometimes I skip over things in my own writing because I know what I meant to write, so I just think it's right.

Catherine Denton said...

Maybe join a writer's group in your area. I joined my local SCBWI, made friends, and sprouted a critique group from that.

ElanaJ said...

I think the best thing to do is hang out where writers hang out. Online. QueryTracker has a great forum. AgentQuery has a great forum. Absolute Write has a great forum. Participate there. Get to know other writers. Find those you think are great, who write in your genre, etc. Try exchanging some stuff. See how it goes from there...

Angela said...

I'm glad the critique was helpful to you, Shannon. :-) It's a great story and deserves to find a home down the road, absolutely.

I moderate a free online Critique Site called The Critique Circle. It works on a credit system--you get credits for writing critiques, which you them spend to submit your work for critique. I also often go to Verla Kays when I want to do a full MS swap with another writer who specifically writes the same kidlit I do, be it YA or MG.

I'm running out to pick son #1 from school so I can't rustle up the links, but they are listed in my sidebar if you want to take a look. :-)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow - you guys rock! Thanks for all the positive feedback. I'm writing this stuff down. :)

Tamika: said...

I'm swimming in the same shores. My work still needs more polish before I solicit too much feedback.

I think I'll start with some people I've made connections with through blogging.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Let me know if you ever want me to take a look at your work- I'd be happy to!

And I know what you mean about not seeing glaring errors in your own work. It takes someone pointing it to me before I see my mistakes, even though I spot them in my students' work or other novels. We're just too close to our own work.

Love the quote!

Mary Aalgaard said...

I'm in a "remote" are of MN, so it took a little effort to find writing soul mates. I also joined SCBWI, which linked me to writer's in my area. We then started inviting people we know with a passion for writing. Our group is up to about 8. I highly recommend it! We encourage one another and build each other up!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Raising a bustling brood, I haven't yet been able to justify an offline critique group. I have a faith-sharing group that guides me in that journey, but my writing group comes to me through beautiful writer friends, mostly through online means. Mary, who just commented, is one of the first people I go to when I need something read. I am so thankful for people like her. Someday, perhaps, I will enter into the group realm, but for now, I find my mentors and helpers in other ways. Good luck and I'll look forward to seeing what happens from here.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Tamika - our online blogging support never ceases to amaze me. It's where I started! :)

Stephanie - thanks for the offer - I may! I think you are right about us being too close to our own work.

Mary - Thanks for the positive comments. It gives me hope.:)

Roxane - You are always so sweet. Family is the main reason I haven't sought a group before now (but like you, I have managed to squeeze in my church ladies!) ;)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I think my "Peace Garden Mama" friend would say that our word friends give us the sunshine and rain for our seedling stories. Keep growing your stories. You'll find a way to share them!

laurel said...

The in-person dynamic with critiques is unbeatable if you can find a group--SCBWI is a good place to start. Advertising at a local library is a possibility too. Or attend a local night school class or conference and troll for like-minded people.

Online groups are better than no critiques, but I find my opinions on pieces often shifts while we're discussing them as a group. So you need to take with a grain of salt critiques given when the critique-giver was reading and reacting in isolation.

Perhaps we need to revive the chatroom idea from back in the day. That might approximate the give-and-take of IRL critique group dynamics.

And BTW, I'm a huge Levertov fan. Thanks for sharing that quote.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'd suggest trying Query Tracker and AgentQueryConnect. They're both great sites!

JenE said...

Shannon, I've wondered the same thing too. I know I will need a few good critique partners, but I'm not to that point yet. I'll be interested to see what you come up with.
I would be willing to critique for you, but considering that I haven't done that before for anyone else, I'm not really sure what is expected. I guess at some point I'll need to figure that out, too. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Mary - I must say I envy you. Roxane is one awesome lady! ;) Thank you again for all your kind comments.

Laurel - I love that quote, too. It just makes me weepy. :) I will check out SCBWI. Thanks!

Jemi - That seems to be a popular recommendation - I will definitely check them out. :-)

JenE - Thanks. I'll be sure to let you know what happens. Thanks for the support. :)

Marybeth Poppins said...

Thanks for stopping by today! Look at all the familiar faces in your followers list. I'm glad you found me too!

I just joined a small critique group suggested through another blog. We haven't started critiquing yet though.

Another way is just to get to know people through blogs. I just asked for beta readers and found a couple that were willing :) As long as you can find someone you trust with your work.

Lisa and Laura said...

I hope your day has gotten better Shannon! We miss really stupid errors in our own work all the time. It's frustrating, isn't it? A good critique group can make a HUGE difference, but they can be difficult to come by. I second Elana's suggestion to hang out at QueryTracker. That's where we've found some of our best beta readers!

Carla Gade said...

Hi Shannon, I'm so glad you found my Writing to Distraction blog again!

Sorry you had a bad day. It's so hard to be objective, eh, impossible, with our own writing. Please don't be so hard on yourself.

See you around . . .

Kasie West said...

I think you're doing exactly what you should be doing to get a critique group: Making it known that you need one. I found my critique group the same way, by connecting with people online. You're right when you say they are completely necessary. Because you're not alone in not seeing errors in your own work. No matter how good you are, it's impossible. You can't objectively view your own work....ever. Good luck. (And I still think you're positive. Everyone's allowed to feel blue.)

Sara ♥ said...

I haven't had much luck with locak crit partners - but I did find two on twitter. We didn't jump in to it - not until we knew we wrote similar types of stories (all fantasy based) and we knew that we were all nice people who didn't talk just to hear ourselves speak... if that makes any sense!

I definitely recommend twitter - and other bloggers are also always really helpful!

By the way - I've left an award for you on my blog! check it out when you have a moment :-)

Jennifer Shirk said...

I found some crit partners initially over at the eHarlequin community. Then we found a yahoo group to join and there I found some writers I've really clicked with and we formed our own group. We've been together about 5 years.
The point is, you might have to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince of crit parnters. :)
Good luck!

PS. LOVE your blog layout, too!

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