Back in June 2010, blogger Laurie A. Green started a discussion around the idea of a science fiction romance critique group. I was reminded of her effort when an SFR writer recently contacted me and expressed interest in joining just such a group. Upon revisiting the thread, I couldn't tell if any active ones had evolved from it.
My thought is that a critique group could certainly be an effective strategy in the effort to help more sci-fi romance authors hone their craft and thus improve chances of publication. It’s also a great way to network. But is there a need for one?
And if there is a need, how strong is the sentiment?
One advantage of forming a critique group within the SFR community as opposed to joining established groups such as Critique Circle is that authors of SFR are more familiar with the subgenre. (Plus, CC excludes certain things such as explicit sex and gore, which may limit options for quite a few of us).
Another thought occurred to me: If we are going to set one up, it seems as though we’d actually need multiple kinds. Different writers have different needs. Some would only want to exchange completed manuscripts. Others crave feedback on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Then there is the issue of content. Some people will read anything while others have certain preferences. There’s also the consideration that certain content may be triggers for some members (i.e., graphic violence) and that should be respected.
How might we break down the groups? Here’s one rough idea:
* Two for erotic SFR, divided into one group for completed manuscript exchanges and a second for Works In Progress/chapter-by-chapter/queries/synopses
* Two for non-erotic SFR, divided into one group for completed manuscript exchanges and a second for Works In Progress/chapter-by-chapter/queries/synopses
What about general guidelines? Should members be responsible for tagging mature content or other elements when submitting their work for a critique? Should there be deadlines for returning critiques, say, bi-weekly or monthly? Is it easier to establish groups for just “big picture” critiques (e.g., plot, characterization, pacing)?
Another idea: Instead of groups, would it be helpful to facilitate pairings? Maybe the idea of forming groups is too unwieldy. Perhaps there are enough writers around to sort ourselves into pairs.
How about this: What if, instead of an ongoing group or set of groups, interested writers pooled together (say, in a Yahoo group) and exchanged work at certain points and for a certain length of time throughout the year? It could be organized on a quarterly or six month basis, with a month allowed for submitting and completing critiques.
So we may not get every project of ours critiqued, but chances are that we’d have at least one manuscript or chapter to submit during the exchange period. And we would make sure that every exchange is equitable in terms of length and that everyone gets a critique. Because let’s face it, with our busy schedules, it’s daunting to think about doing repeated critiques throughout the year. A window of exchanges might be more manageable, at least initially.
Those are just a few ideas. I’ve never been in a formal critique group, so those of you with experience may have more strategic proposals. In the interest of full disclosure, now that I’ve decided to expand my efforts into writing SFR for publication, I’d be interested in doing some exchanges.
So what do you think? Are you interested in joining an SFR critique group(s)? Is there a way to organize critique groups/pairings in a relatively streamlined manner?