My husband is a big Star Wars fan. He watches all six movies often, though there’s a couple he watches more often than the rest. He collects the action figures (never call them toys to a “true” collector). He rushes to the video store that sells the comic books the same day they call him to let him know his comic is in. And everytime a new SW novel appears in print he combs the bookstores (ranting about it being released in hard back first and having to wait a year or more for its release in paper back, but that’s another story for another blog). All of this means that when he found his favorite SW author’s web site he, of course, emailed a link to the site to me.
Usually I look at these “helpful” links others send me with half-hearted attention, but the fact that he raves about this author’s writing made me curious. My initial reaction to Karen Traviss’ web site was, if possible, even more curiousity because the first page link she has is to something called Critters. (My husband, being the wonderfully oblivious man he is, assumed the author was talking about her pets or some such thing.) After looking at her other page links, which all had to do with how to be a better writer, I figured it had to have something to do with writing.
I haven’t been so surprised at being right in a long time. It turns out that Critters is a group of writers from novice to pro who critique each others’ work. (Hence the clever name.) It’s a great idea. The only catch is that all members are required to submit a minimum of one critique per week. The good news is that there are ways to get ahead in critiquing and ways to catch up. The benefits of having your work honestly, and tactfully, critiqued before it hits the publishers desk or you’ve already submitted it to a POD (print-on-demand) company far outweigh the commitment in time and energy spent doing a critique a week.
The best part is that you can have your complete novel critiqued as well as smaller works. There are special provisions for entire novels and a way to get your work bumped up to the top for critique if you just don’t have the time to wait an entire month.
While it would be nice to be able to write the perfect story from the first word, a good writer knows that editing and rewriting are a must in the craft. Having your work critiqued by others who have no reason to stroke your ego, as family and friends do, makes the process that much better (though no less painful). Thanks to authors like Karen Traviss, who are willing to give new and emerging writers advice, and to fellow writers like those on Critters, every would-be author has a better chance at success.