The Critical Need for Critique Groups

Writing a book, any kind of book, is a challenge. Writing a memoir is similar to pulling out your nose hairs – painful with a lot of tears. Writing a memoir interrupted by movie scenes… well… that’s a horse of a different color.

I really struggled in the early days of writing my book. It was difficult to find a way to get this story out. It was painful to work through it all again. It was exhausting. Most importantly, I struggled to find my hook… my angle… my something different. I knew I was really going to have to come up with something extra creative to help my story and me.

I was sitting in my car at a red light when I had my moment of divine inspiration. In an almost audible voice I thought/heard, “You could write them (the hard parts) as movie scenes.”

I almost rolled down the window and asked the guy next to me, “Did you hear that?”

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But I didn’t. He didn’t seem to be listening to the same inner voice I was. I got the feeling he wouldn’t have welcomed my interruption.

Meanwhile, back in my car where it made perfect sense to hear inner voices out loud, I was celebrating.

That’s it! Movie scenes! Of course!

It’s perfect.

Except…

I wasn’t exactly sure how to make that work. I was already struggling to get the words down on paper in the first place. How was I ever going to flip back and forth from movie scenes to story and back to movie scenes again?

I have to be honest. My first few attempts were a mess. That’s why I am grateful for my critique group.

Most of the people in my group could slog through the mess and see where my head and my heart were going. They continued to cheer me on. They told me what I was writing was worth reading. They agreed that my overly audible and somewhat pushy inner voice might be on to something. Something good. They told me to keep going.

However, one person was not on board with my fantastical moment of translucent clarity. She hated it. And she unabashedly shared her opinion with me – over and over and over again. Almost every time I submitted a writing sample, she would lay my pages down on the table with what appeared to be a weighted thump and proclaim, “It’s not working. I don’t get it.”

Ouch.

I could have taken what she said personally. I could have given up. But I knew she wasn’t insulting me as a person. She really and truly could not see my voice. It was too confusing.

Ultimately, she motivated me to keep working. I wanted to get it right. I wanted to win her over. I am stubborn that way.

After several months of working, we finally had a breakthrough. That day I had submitted the “scene” from my book where I hand over my baby daughter to the cardiac surgeons for the first time. With tears in her eyes she gently handed my pages back to me and said, “Okay. Now I get it. Keep going. It’s beautiful.”

Music to my ears. And with that stamp of approval I finally found my rhythm for this book. I finally found my voice.

I am completely indebted to my critique group both for their encouragement and for their honest criticism. They helped me learn how to write. And they stuck by me until I got it right. I never would have finished this book without them.

Thanks, ladies. You know who you are.

 

©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

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