|“You fail only if you stop writing.” —Ray Bradbury
Congrats to the winners of the TWA Valentine’s Day Romance Flash Fiction Contest!
- First Place: “Freedive” by Christine Carlee
- Second Place: “From There to Paternity” by Russ Merriman
- Third Place: “One Star” by Jenna McKenna
March Speaker: Jim Genia and the TWA Gang Rap About Show vs. Tell
Wednesday, March 6, 2024, at 6:30 pm
Tampa’s Longest-Running Critique Group Meets Three Times a Month. All Are Welcome!
Critique groups are on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m.
Meetings for 2024 will be conducted via Zoom and maybe–maybe–in person as well. We’re trying to iron that out.
The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87606989154
Guest Speakers are on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.
These meetings are conducted via Zoom. The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87606989154
To Connect to the Critique Meetings via ZOOM, click this link at 6:15 p.m.:
How Do I Participate In a Critique?
- Download and critique the submissions found on this website at GROUPS>CRITIQUE GROUP>CRITIQUE GROUP DOWNLOADS approximately one week in advance of the meeting date. Entry requires the password “Critic”.
- On Wednesday, connect via video call or in person to share your critiques. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.
- Email your comments directly to the author after the critique. The author’s email address will be included in their submission.
- Membership is not required to download the submissions and attend meetings, but only members may submit work for critique.
Can I mail my critiques to the author?
No. We are not providing home addresses of the authors. Please send your comments via email.
I hate technology and I don’t want to do this.
That’s okay. You are welcome to download the submissions and email your comments directly to the author. No need to attempt the video call. Or, you can wait for the live group to resume.
Is this free?
Using the Zoom software to join this call is free. TWA is paying for a Zoom Pro membership to make this work. Your annual dues are covering this cost. Thanks for being a member and making this possible!
What other questions do you have?
Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anatomy of a Good Fiction Critique
By Jim Genia
If you’re reading this, you’re either contemplating taking the writing group plunge, or you’ve been reviewing other people’s writing for a while (and they’ve been reviewing yours) and you want to get better at it. Whatever your motivations, congratulations! You’re making a conscious effort to improve your writing, and you’re taking a step closer to mastering the craft.
So what goes into a good critique of a fiction submission? First and foremost, a good critique is a respectful critique.
Don’t like the subject matter? Don’t like the characters? Don’t like the author? That’s fine. But as we’re here to improve as writers and help others improve, that means sticking to what was put down on paper and viewing it through the lens of storytelling technique and assorted necessary story elements. It means ignoring the prejudices we may harbor, narrowing our vision so we see only the spinning gears (or gears stuck in place) of a piece, and focusing only on that.
Imagine a skilled car mechanic distracted by his burning hatred for the transmissions of Hyundais. Imagine a talented surgeon blinded by how much he dislikes spleens. How good can that car mechanic and that surgeon truly be? More importantly, how much of a help to others can they be?
Of course, if a submission offends, you have every right to pass on reading it. But the path to becoming a better writer is paved by stones of understanding. Figuring out why something rubs you the wrong way, and what edges can be sanded so that rubbing isn’t so wrong, can only help.
What Matters Most
No one is born knowing the craft of writing. Like most worthwhile endeavors, it takes years of learning and years of practice to gain even a modicum of mastery. And that’s okay! You don’t have to have an MFA in creative writing or publishing credits to have worthwhile insight. Sometimes the most valuable feedback you can give an author is the one bit of knowledge only you know: how their writing made you feel.
Just as focus groups are used to gauge reactions and iron out the most effective messaging for products and people, so too are writing groups used to gauge reactions–which makes how you feel about a particular piece of writing the most valuable bit of information you can give an author.
Often, those emotions you felt reading a submission, including any gut reactions, visceral feelings and the taste the ending left in your mouth, are what the author truly needs to hear. For it is within these reactions, feelings and tastes that a submission’s successes and shortcomings can be measured.
Here’s a checklist of what to look at when critiquing. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good start. Entire classes can be taught on nearly every one of these story elements, but as long as you have a basic understanding of what they mean, you have enough to know what to look for in a submission.
- Plot and Story Arc
- Is there a plot? Is the reader propelled along by a desire to turn the page to find out what happens next?
- Does the story have a beginning, middle and end?
- Are the characters “real” and believable? Are they three-dimensional?
- Does the main character have a goal or intentions?
- Are there obstacles in the way?
- Are there palpable stakes?
- Opening and Ending
- Did the opening draw the reader in?
- Was the ending satisfying?
- Does the story take place somewhere that feels real?
- Did it feel like the author checked for typos and other mistakes?
- What worked?
- An author always does at least something right–what was done right in this submission? What worked?
Why We Do It
Ultimately, one of the greatest returns on the investment of critiquing other writers’ submission is the deeper understanding of the craft that inevitably comes. After all, if you put someone else’s work under a magnifying glass and identify the moving parts that make it tick, you will gain valuable insight on what works and what doesn’t–insight you can use for your own writing.
Remember: getting better, and helping others get better, is why we do it.