Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#WriterlyWisdomWednesday: Romance Author, Barbara Bettis, on Critique Groups

I'm pleased to have fellow TWRP romance author, Barbara Bettis here today sharing on a topic I high recommend ... critique groups.

Be sure to check out her newest release!


 Let’s Hear It for Critique Groups

I’m in the midst of edits on my second mediev­al and each week, I take a section back to my critique group. The members have seen it at every step of the writing process and yet, on this last go-through, they’re finding things that had slipped past all those other times.
We’re doing the same last-edit run-through for another member’s book, her third. And as with mine, although we’ve been through her chapters at least twice before, this final time we still find points to clarify.

In this final go-round, the crit process is different. Now we’re into the polishing stage. Of course, only the author can do that final polish, but crit partners who know each other’s voice can be of immeasurable help. Tuesday afternoon, we discussed a particular word in my friend’s manuscript. Would another better represent the message she wanted to convey? Would still a third work to alter the rhythm (cadence) of a sentence to better transmit the feeling she intended?

Silly? We don’t think so. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” We may not always get it right, but it’s not for lack of trying. Working together (brainstorming, checking a word’s origin, analyzing whether the particular character would have “said that”), we found a phrase that she thought better reflected the character, the time, and the situation.

Only other writers understand the drive to get the wording exactly right. And it’s easier when you have someone to bounce ideas off of. Now, critique groups don’t sit around all day debating esoteric word choices. J They offer advice and insight on whatever the individual writer needs. Characterization? Plot and story arc? GMC? All those and many other things.

That’s why I firmly believe in the importance of critique groups or partners. Not every writer thinks they’re important, and that’s fine. Whatever works for the individual. But I highly recommend them. They’re especially helpful for someone who’s starting on a writing career.

 A partner or a group also can help answer basic grammar, structure and development questions. You know, the kinds of things we all need to master so our stories can be understood.

True, finding the right critique partners or group isn’t always easy. Not every group is one in which you’ll remain. But when you find the right combination, it’s unbelievably helpful.

Right now, I’m lucky enough to have found two wonderful groups.

My particular weekly crit group has been together for years. We’ve become friends, but the friendship doesn’t interfere with the sometimes painfully honest evaluations we give each other’s work. We’re all published—all but one, who could be if she’d only submit!

The second is an online critique coterie of historical authors whose expertise is fantastic. They provide great insight, total honesty, and unequivocal support.

So if you don’t have a critique group or at least a critique partner, you might consider looking for one that’s a good fit for you. It might take a bit of searching, but I firmly believe it will be worth it.

Good luck and happy writing!


He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.

Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape
Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Purchase Links:


 About Barbara Bettis

Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she briefly considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.

She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.



  1. Hi Terri,

    Thanks for hosting me today, the day before our country's special day of Thanks. Speaking of which, I tried really, really, hard to persuade my children and g/children to forgo the traditional turkey for something different--like dinner out??? Didn't work. So I'm taking a break from baking pies and cleaning to say to everyone--Happy Thanksgiving!! And to our international friends, Happy Day LOL Barb Bettis.

  2. Hi Terri,

    Thanks for hosting me today, the day before our country's special day of Thanks. Speaking of which, I tried really, really, hard to persuade my children and g/children to forgo the traditional turkey for something different--like dinner out??? Didn't work. So I'm taking a break from baking pies and cleaning to say to everyone--Happy Thanksgiving!! And to our international friends, Happy Day LOL Barb Bettis.

  3. Barb, You're so right about the importance of membership in a writers' or critique group. I'm a member of a wonderful online writing community and I'm constantly amazed by the unstinting and unselfish help I receive from my fellow writers -- as well as their patience! Just another thing to be thankful for this holiday! Thanks for the interesting and informative post.

  4. Happy Thanksgiving to you Barbara. I cannot agree more about having great critique partners. I am so very blessed to have had the best support me, push me in the right direction, and NEVER give up on me. One I consider a daughter of my heart now, and another is one of my dearest friends because of the work we've done together. The one thing we stated from the beginning was no lying or fudging when we find something that needs fixing. I think since we care so much about each other we would rather help them fix the problem than have it go out in print wrong and then have bad reviews.

    How nice that you have the support for your writing. It always amazes me at what can slip past so many eyes so many times. I've been told the eye sees what it expects and that is how it happens.

  5. Great post, Barbara. I couldn't do without my critique group! Happy Thanksgivine. I tweeted.

  6. I'm not a member of a group, but I do have three critique partners who are amazing. One even helps me from the beginning with the outline.

  7. I agree with your post - critique partners/groups are the best gift a writer can give herself. Without a doubt, my writing measurably improved after finding someone I'm comfortable working with. And I'm the original "I can do it better myself" girl!

  8. Great post. I love critique groups, but it is important to find the right group(s). I've been a member of four different groups. One was perfectly fine just not right for me. One was so horrible that they had me questioning my writing skills and my voice. The other two, however, have been wonderful. Don't know what I would've done without them. :-)

  9. Hi Barb,

    A very informative blog. There is nothing like a fresh set of eyes to go over our babies and pick out things we can't see ourselves.
    Best wishes


  10. Barb, nice interview. I agree, finding the right critique group is important. I tweeted and FB'd. Happy Thanksgiving.

  11. Barbara, I've enjoyed the critic groups I've belonged to throughout the times - and the cities I've lived in. One caveat: when you belong to the same group for a long time, I feel the story becomes so familiar with each individual, it gets more difficult to get a true critique.

  12. Barb, I envy your critique groups. Sounds like you've mastered the right mix. :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. I don't think I could write without my critique group. We meet once a week and members come and go, but the group's been meeting for years. Everyone writes different things, which keeps me fresh and not caught in a genre rut. Each member also has different critique strengths. One person might notice 19 "as's" on a page, another might say your voice seems stilted or your character is bitchy, and another might say, you don't fall down when you get shot. Everyone is supportive and we've become good friends. I've learned a lot about craft, just by listening, and anytime I'm stuck I can always ask for a brainstorming session instead of a critique. Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. I had a whole long comment about my critique group and when I clicked publish I had to re-sign into google and my comment was lost . Happy Thanksgiving!

  15. Laura, thank you! I'm finding even more writing support though the wonderful people I'm meeting here, too. Happy Holidays! P.S. Love your book :)

  16. Barbara, I absolutely agree. My critique group has been an invaluable resource, the most important element of which is the butt-kicking it took to get me to submit. My first book is in final edits right now.

  17. Barbara,

    I don't know what I'd do without you and the rest of the "Critters". So many wonderful perspectives and talents. I think one of the keys to our group is that we treat each other with respect and are constructive with our critiques. I've heard of some critique partners who have a slash-and-burn philosophy that doesn't help you grow. We're so lucky to have such a genuinely caring group, and you're a big part of that.