When I was a fledgling writer, I sat at a conference table with an author who was accepting a major award. She told me that her crit group had been together for ten years. They were all unpublished during first five years. Then one after the other, they each got book deals. Over the next several years, they all made the New York Times bestseller list, sometimes multiple times, and every one of them had won at least one a national book award.
I was in awe and said I hoped I
could find a group like that.
I believe God (or the Universe or a Higher Power) hears when you set an
intention like that. A short while later, I ended up in two terrific
critique groups. And the members have gone on to get published in many
genres. One particular group has reached its fifth year, and we, too,
have now all been published.
When we got together 5+ years ago, The four of us were all unpublished writers working
to improve our craft. Since then, between us, we've had more than 25
books published. And now we've done something we've always wanted to do: all of us had stories accepted for this anthology, A Community of Writers. And between us, we've managed to fill 1/3 of the anthology. Yep, 8 of the stories are from my CPs and me.
I love hearing others' success stories, so I hope this one will encourage you if you've been struggling to get published. If you're serious about writing, find some critique partners to share your work with. Beta readers--friends, classmates, relatives--are great for stroking your ego or pointing out dangling plot threads or areas of confusion. But if you really want to get published, you need other writers who are studying the craft, working on their own work, and are knowledgeable enough to help you move your work to the next level.
It's nice if you're all writing in the same genre, but that isn't necessary to be effective partners. You may find you need to explain some of the conventions of your genre to your CPs, but good writing techniques are the same whether you're writing picture books or erotica or anything in between. Our group has reviewed stories and novels from a variety of genres: nonfiction, mystery, romance, thriller, YA, picture book, short story, and paranormal to mention a few. And we all learned a lot in the process. I also belong to two critique groups specifically for my YA and children's writing. It's fun to discuss the unique needs and sensibilities of our readers. And I find that children's writers rarely lose their sense of fun and wonder.
Critique groups also have other advantages beyond editing manuscripts. They're because you're all partners in the publishing venture. You not only share advice and techniques, you also share submission tips. And you offer moral support when rejection letters roll in. And each person in the group has different contacts in the publishing world. We also share those. We've introduced each other to new publishers and arranged for crit buddies to speak at conferences or participate in booksignings. That kind of help is invaluable and slowly builds your contact lists. You never know when someone your CP introduces you to might end up as a resource for publishing/editing/speaking gigs.
So get out there and search for some like-minded CPS if you don't have any. If you do, be sure to thank them for all they've done to help improve your skills. And for those of you in crit groups where the majority of you are still unpublished, don't give up hope. Keep plugging away. Study, read, learn. Attend conferences. Bring back the materials for your CPs. One day, you, too, will be holding a group booksigning.
Oh, and if you're interested in getting a copy of A Community of Writers, it's for sale at Sunbury Press and on Amazon. If you love libraries, you'll be glad to know that all royalties from the sale of the anthology will support the Fredricksen Library. Cool, huh?