What are Crit Circles?

Jim Mills, Associate Editor, Forward Motion Community

2001, Jim Mills

Issue #1: 01/01/01

Feature Articles
Making Histories
By J.S. Burke
Women and Childbearing 
in Fantasy

By Bryn Neuenschwander
Matching Your Money to Your World 
By Ron Brown
Capturing Time for the Muse
By Vicki McElfresh
In Praise of Praise:
A Second Look at Critiquing

By Lazette Gifford
Building a Better Beast
By Sarah Jane Elliott
State of the Horror Genre
By Ron Brown
Poetry and Everyday  Life
By Jennifer St. Clair Bush
Your Characters Are 
Not Puppets

By Anne M. Marble
Science Fiction: 
Are We Going Somewhere 

By Bob Billing
Stage & Screen: 
The Promise of Premise
By Robin Catesby
Suspense & Mystery:
The Motives of Villains 
and Heroes in Suspense Fiction
By Shane P. Carr
Young Adult & Children:
The Gulf
By Justin Stanchfield
Young Writer's Scene:
Five Practical Tips for Young Writers
By Beth Adele Long
Book Reviews
Web Site Reviews
How Critique Circles Work
By Jim Mills
Doggerel Contest Winner
News from Forward Motion

Groups offer, at their best, mutual encouragement, amicable competition, Stimulating discussion, practice in criticism, and support in difficulty.  These are great things, and if you are able to join a group, do so!  But if for any reason you can't, don't feel cheated or defeated.  Ultimately you write alone.  And ultimately you alone can judge your work.

Ursula K. Le Guin, 
Steering the Craft, 1998  
The Eighth Mountain Press
ISBN: 0-933377-46-0

For that matter, what is HollyLisle.com all about? To quote Holly, "We have ... a private readers' and writers' community that gives you access to places to write and critique fiction, meet other writers, and get your writing career on track, ... and just hang out and have fun with other people who like books, reading, writing, fantasy, and long debates on an amazing variety of subjects."  

(You can find the entire text and lots of good general info at http://hollylisle.com/community/

Sound interesting?  One of the key activities in developing a career as a writer is finding a place to write and critique fiction.  Why?  So that you can get critical feedback from other writers who will tell you what you're doing right, and how to improve. It's a learning process.  Like any other career, there are things you need to learn.  The crit circles help you along the way, both with critiques and general knowledge.  Ask a question, and you will often receive multiple answers. 

The Master index list for Crit Circles can be found on the Crit Circle Classifieds Board (http://network54.com/Hide/Forum/70404) in a message labeled "Crit Circle Master Index - Look Here First." That is exactly what you should do if you are interested in finding a circle to join.  

Look at the board postings and visit the circles you're interested in.  Read a story or two along with the posted critiques. This will give you a good idea if the circle is a fit for you. If it is, then contact the crit circle moderator about joining. Some moderators prefer you post such a message on the CCC Board, and some directly in the circle itself. If in doubt, email the moderator -- his or her email is posted in the CCC Board master list. 

Here is a quick recap of how to join a Crit Circle.  It's easy! 

  1. Write and edit a story or chapter to the best of your ability. 

  2. Find a crit circle you like the look of (and that will be a good fit for your type of writing). The Crit Circle Classifieds Board is the best place to look.

  3. Ask the Circle moderator for permission to join the circle.

  4. Critique stories already present in the circle. Critiquing is an important part of learning to write.

  5. Post your story or chapter as a "message" in a crit circle.

  6. Get feedback from other writers. 

  7. Edit and improve your work.

  8. Repeat steps 4 and after. Learn. Pretty soon, you may be selling, too.  Never give up.  

Dive right in -- the water's fine. 

I hope this helps you out.  Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions about the list.  Post them on the CCC Board or email Jim@HollyLisle.com  

Thanks, keep writing, and good luck! 

Jim Mills, Crit Circle Classifieds Moderator (one of many hats)

Comments from Community Members: 

How did you pick crit circle(s) to join? 

I chose to join only one circle, and I wasn't sure which one I wanted to until I really looked at what I write. Once I'd determined that my writing tends to be somewhat dark (even "happy" endings aren't all that happy) and concern things I've rarely seen (choices between "worse and terrible") I requested to be admitted to the Dark Fantasy Circle. 

Look at your work, dissect it a little, and choose what circle to join using your writing as a guide, not your desires.  

How did you get up the nerve to post work?

What nerve? I just chose something that looked like a short story to me, closed my eyes (figuratively, of course), and posted it.

What have you learned from having your work critiqued?

I've learned that my "short stories" aren't able to stand by themselves without a lot of work. So far, I've posted two pieces I thought were short stories; One critique of the first suggested I lengthen it to a novel; both critiques of the second story suggested I include some minor details and give some insight to the character.

What did you learn from critiquing the work of other people? 

A lot more than I thought I needed to know! Critiquing others' writing is helping me learn how to critique my own. I wish I only learned faster. 

Any other crit-circle-related comments?  

I find that I see a lot of my mistakes after I've posted my stories. Also, the crits aren't as good as I'd like (perfection is unattainable), but they aren't as horrible as I fear, either.

A. Shelton

How did you pick crit circle(s) to join? 

I write fantasy almost exclusively, which narrowed the list down. Then, since I write fantasy of several different types, I opted for the Mists, Moonlight and Magic circle (which crits general fantasy) instead of something more specific like Dark Fantasy or Contemporary Fantasy. I don't have the time to join multiple circles and keep up with all of the critting. 

I joined Wordsmithing because a friend of mine who reads my work has, on a few occasions, pointed out particularly effective phrasings; I'm actively pursuing that sort of thing now, and Wordsmithing helps me find it. 

Blades and Bullets I started because fight scenes can crop up in any genre, but can benefit from a more specialized critique than that applied to general narrative. 

How did you get up the nerve to post work?  

It's easier online. About a year and a half before I found this place, I joined a writers' group near me; that got me partly inured to it. The nice thing about online critiquing, as opposed to the group, is that I can go bury my face in shame when I get a criticism, then come back the next day and look at it rationally. 

What have you learned from having your work critiqued? 

Phrasings that strike me as clever may be confusing to others. I also have to watch out for pov shifts. 

What did you learn from critiquing the work of other people?

Let me count the ways . . . . it's easier to see how to fix a problem when the story isn't mine. So, by thinking of potential solutions to other people's problems, I get practice for applying those thoughts to my own work. 



How did you pick crit circle(s) to join? 

I write mostly fantasy, so I joined Mists, Moonlight, and Magic, which was general fantasy. At the time I joined, I think it was the only circle devoted only to fantasy. I toyed with starting my own circle, but the next day there was an add for M,M,&M, with the additional info that it would emphasize writing publishable work--from initial drafts to final edits, and since this is basically what I wanted out of my writing, I joined. I remember that I was hesitant at first--do I really want to do this? But now that I regularly post and crit, I don't remember what it was that I was worried about .

What have you learned from having your work critiqued? 

What I especially like about the crit-circle critiques is that you get a bunch of them. So, when something appears in almost all the crits, I know it's a problem. Also, you get different perspectives. Sometimes one person will dislike a part that another person thinks is great, or two people will have different suggestions for how to fix the same problem. I think things that are even more helpful, because it makes me think about why those people thought what they did, and try to evaluate my own work from a distant perspective. Then I can decide with whom I agree, or if I think something else entirely. 

What did you learn from critiquing the work of other people?

I think I learned more from critting other people's work than I do from getting crits of my own stuff. It's teaching me to think about what works, and what doesn't, and I can apply that to my own writing in a more general sense. I also think reading other people's crits of the same piece is enormously helpful. I can see how other opinions are similar or different to my own. Often people comment on a problem I never noticed, and then when I look, I find I do it my own writing. 



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