Kristina Wilson-Brown shares how becoming part of a critique group via the WriteMentor Hub reignited her motivation after a writing slump and helped her connect with fellow storytellers
“Find yourself a critique group” – that’s what they told me.
So, I did.
I didn’t stop at one group. Oh no, I gathered them up like an excitable kid at a Pick ‘n Mix counter. I put out requests to join groups through the fabulous world of the online writing community, and before I knew it, I was a member of one PB and two MG groups.
Month by month, I was receiving invaluable feedback from my peers on stories I was working on, and at the same time, improving my own skills in the mystical art of providing feedback to others.
These groups have been a lifeline through the rocky road of writing, and if it wasn’t for these wonderfully supportive humans, I am certain I would have given up.
My problem is, I’m impatient.
This is an unfortunate characteristic for an aspiring author to have. However, I’m in my mid-forties, so the chances of shaking off this trait now are slim-to-none.
Instead, I must find ways to adapt my impatient instincts if I’m to stand a chance of making it in an industry renowned for moving at a glacial pace.
So far, I have come up with the following action points to tame my twitchy nature:
- Make sure I work on more than one project at a time
- Always start something new when querying
- Set myself new challenges
- Enter competitions
It was this last action point which led me to the power of the beta reader.
Anticipation and dread
The moment had come; a moment which fills all aspiring writers with both anticipation and dread:
The announcement of ‘The List’.
‘The List’ can apply to any writing competition. Writers everywhere feverishly flick between social media platforms with one hand, and refreshing their inboxes with the other, desperate to see their name or book title pop up.
This was me a few weeks back, waiting for the announcement of the WriteMentor Summer Programme mentee pairings list.
The designated time had arrived – THE email was due. An email, thoughtfully prepared by the team at WriteMentor, which would have one of two subject titles – one which would make you celebrate, and one which would make you sigh.
Writers then had the time to let either news settle privately before the official announcement hit the masses later that day. This added layer of consideration illustrates the kind of good souls who run this programme.
The email arrived. The butterflies in my stomach lifted off when I saw the ‘WriteMentor’ name appear. Then, the butterflies quickly landed and remained still when I scanned across to the subject title.
By this point, I had entered a few writing competitions, so had been used to this feeling. The sting never goes away, but for me, it doesn’t last for as long as it used to.
This list did have a glimmer of joy for me, when I saw one of my critique partners titles pop up. It may sound corny, but it’s true. A win for someone in your writing team, feels like a win for you too.
Of course, I had the obligatory period of self-pity and wallowing. Surely standard practice for any writer?
But then, I snapped myself out of my slump and took charge of the situation.
Looking for support
I love this story I’m working on. It’s my third full MG novel and I know my writing is getting stronger with each one, but I also know I still have a long way to go.
WriteMentor has been a constant source of support, through courses, advice, and general comradery. I wish there were more hours in the day to tap into everything that is made available to the Hub members. However, what I needed right now, was more eyes on my work.
Maybe I’m not improving with each book I write?
Maybe this current WIP only makes sense in my mind, but no one else’s?
Maybe I really should just go back to the day job?
I needed confirmation, one way or the other, to this list of maybes. And I needed it now.
One morning, scrolling through the Hub Slack pages, the little #betareader channel winked at me.
I’d used this channel once before, with my very first MG. I eagerly posted my novel onto the spreadsheet, ready to swap with anyone who fancied having a read. However, during my own editing, I soon realised how far from ready my novel really was, so I hit the Delete button and never returned.
I posted directly on the channel this time, rather than adding to the spreadsheet.
I was nervous.
Maybe no one will like the pitch?
Maybe no one is even interested in this type of story?
Maybe I should take that as a sign and just move onto the next thing?
The curse of the maybes returned.
From self-doubt to self-belief
But, within days, I had three lovely Hub members offer their time and knowledge to read my full MS and give feedback. Three new writer friends. Three new critique partners. Three new reasons to pick myself up and take charge of my writing again.
Two weeks later, I received insightful, thoughtful, and supportive feedback which pointed out things I wouldn’t have noticed, as well as confirmed concerns I already had. I also had the privilege of reading three fantastic new pieces of work which were not only a joy to read, but also helped to hone my own critiquing skills.
I had gone from the doldrums of wallowing and self-doubt, back up to the dizzy heights of self-belief and confidence to keep trucking on to make this story, and other future stories, the best I can make them.
I feel very lucky, not only to have found ‘my thing’ that I love to do. But through WriteMentor, I have also found ‘my people’.
Want support from a community of writers?
Like Kristina, get the help you need to improve your confidence and craft via the WriteMentor Hub, our supportive community of storytellers.