Tag Archives: critique group

Get motivated to write that novel or short story.

I link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.
—Gerald Brenan


You want to start writing that novel but can’t seem to find the time. The kids need ferrying to their soccer games; you have to clean out the garage, and hey you are going on holidays in a couple of weeks and need to plan your itinerary. Or you are beyond hooked on social media.

Meantime that novel sits either deadlocked at Chapter 3 or the novel plot and characters are scurrying around you mind faster than mice in your house.

What do you do? Who do you call?

You need someone to help get you motivated to write. You can get another writer friend who can empathize with your predicament, join a writing critique group. Or hire a writing consultant.

I briefly mentioned in last week’s post that I coach clients in writing. But what exactly does that mean? What exactly do I do?

First I talk to the client (either in person or by Skype or regular phone) to see where they are at (or not at) with their novel, short story, or memoir. We talk about their goals and if that is nebulous we try to get the goals more concrete. I present suggestions for working with them – in person or via Skype or a combination of both.

So, what exactly can happen during the consult?

If the author hasn’t actually started writing, we discuss an outline for our time together based on their story outline. I may get them to write a synopsis of their novel just to nail it down. The next step depends on the client. With one client we brainstormed ideas for each chapter and she took notes. Then she went home, wrote the chapter, maybe with a revision, and emailed that chapter to me to look over before our next consult.

At this meeting, we first went through this chapter with me making suggestions, which we discussed and then she made notes to do so (if the client brings his or her laptop or iPad, he or she can make the changes right then). The rest of the session we brainstormed for her next chapter. And then the process was repeated as we did with her previous chapter.

Another client is well into her manuscript and just needs feedback on what she has written. We work either in person or with Skype. She emails me the chapter she is working on (often a few hours before our appointment) and I look it over. When she is “here” she looks at her copy on her laptop and I look at it on my computer. She gives me a brief synopsis of where this chapter will fit in her book (it is non-fiction), what it focuses on and what she hopes to accomplish with this chapter. I make suggestions and ask questions about the content. Often I will suggest moving something up for the beginning, rewording the beginning or the middle, clarifying different things, adding different things, etc. As we talk, she is making the changes or making note of changes to make if it will take some time to do so (for example, if she has to check her research or do more research). Once we are done with the chapter, if there is still time in our hour together, she might go into what she will be working on next in the book.

The fiction-writing client and I met once a week. The non-fiction-writing client and I meet twice a month. Sure, there is a fee, but the feedback I get from my clients is that it is worth it for them to get going at their writing.

These writing sessions establish regularity in writing and because the author also has to write outside the sessions, a few meetings may be all she needs before she embarks on writing that novel, that memoir, that short story collection, without someone on her case. I see where these sessions also help the writer gain some self-confidence that she can actually do this, and actually write something. The latter ties in with the writing critique part.

So, if you don’t want to hire someone to coach you in your writing, join a writing critique group – it will motivate you to write if you have to produce something for critique every couple of weeks.


Sharon A. Crawford


You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at And keep checking for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date. And remember that clicking on the book icon at the top gets you to my Amazon profile.



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Get your writing critiqued

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

Every time I’d get a critique or some redirection, I’d always just take it very personally. Now I have no problem with it.

-Jessica Alba

Besides proofreading which I talked about in last week’s post, another tool for the writer is to get your writing critiqued by other writers. I have posted about this before but it is important enough to do an updated version.

Let me take you to yesterday evening when my East End Writers’ Group met at S. Walter Stewart Library in Toronto. We are basically a writing critique group and that is what writers come here for. Some new members joined us and we had some interesting writing excerpts from some very talented and intelligent writers.

Some of the issues that other writers picked up on and commented about:

For the beginning of a literary novel. Use more dialogue – the author knew this but needed some guidance on how to go about it.

For a non-fiction self-help book which was written in plain language. Some structural changes were suggested by other writers, such as use sub-headings, use more anecdotes and less instruction.
For a synopsis for an opera – yes we have a music composer who also writes short stories. We were all getting lost in all the characters. Suggestions were to make the synopsis shorter (as it would be going on the program) and list the characters and a bit about each separately.
So you can see how more pairs of eyes and ears can pick up what the writer misses. When we write we do so in solitude (we would hope no outside interruptions). We also have tunnel vision (subjective) with our work and sometimes “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Even when we know something isn’t working, we may try and try again, several times, and run out of options to fix it. Others can see what our mind may miss.

This is where a writing critique group comes in. I urge you to join one – online or in person – whichever you prefer. Just a few caveats. You shouldn’t have to pay for this – it is mutual writers helping writers. Maybe everybody can bring food or beverage for a snack. With East End Writers’ Group I ask everyone to bring a gluten-free snack or juice. I usually bring cheese, rice crackers, fruit and peppermint tea bags. Now if I just could get the kettle working at the library – despite being shown it just doesn’t work for me. It is not the straightforward plug in the electric kettle version.

Kettles no matter – what does matter is you pick a group that suits your needs. Find out if the group is open to all writing genres or just fiction or poetry, etc. Which do you prefer? Do you pre-submit your writing excerpt for critique or just bring it to the gathering? If online, how do you submit it – in a form online or as a Word attachment? What about copyright online? It should remain with you the author. If online, are you expected to critique other writers’ work? How many? Check the timeline for these and see if you can work within the group’s timeline. For groups meeting in person, look at when they meet and how often. Do you want to go every week (some do meet once a week and that can prove hectic and too much), once a month or? And do you prefer weekday daytime, weekday evenings or Saturday mornings or afternoons. Will you fit in with the group, i.e., are they giving constructive criticism? Are they negative? Are they nasty?

Give the group a test drive. Attend for a few sessions or sign up online for a few sessions and if you don’t like, bow out.
Where do you find these groups? For in-person, check your area library branches – their websites should have them all listed. Or check the library branch itself – often they have a flyer posted. Or ask a librarian. A librarian can often tell you what other branches are offering. Universities that offer writing courses often have writing groups as well. Check their bulletin boards. Also some writing organizations also offer writing critique groups, often online – these would be open to members. There is also Meet-up if you have that in your area, which has writing groups.

Or go to Mr. Google and just try “Writing Groups” (that one also gets you some links for info how groups operate and what to look for) or “Writing Groups (your location here)”. When I add “Toronto” to “Writing Groups” my East End Writers’ Group is listed as the top two and three. Guess that is good SEO.

You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at

More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at


Sharon A. Crawford


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