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Live Without a Net

Once again, I'm without a critique group. And this is a good thing.

Now, to fully understand the above statement one must understand that every writer learning their craft should find a good critique group in which to hone their skills. When you write a story, chances are very good that you are the worst judge of its quality. If you thought it was bad, you probably wouldn't have written it. A critique group can help you learn what works with your story and what doesn't. It can show you where your strengths lie (something else a writer generally doesn't know; if we knew what we were good at we'd keep doing it) along with your weaknessess.

I've been fortunate enough to attend Clarion West, along with the Oregon Coast Professional Fiction Writers Master's Class, where I got to study with some of the best minds in the field of Science Fiction. I've had two critique groups since then, one in which I didn't fit and one in which was as close to perfect as it comes. I've been studying hard at the business of writing since 1995,(with a small hiatus of three years)submitting story after story--somewhere around five hundred--and sold my first story in January of 2004.

With the latest sale to Interzone, the sales count is now at thirty five.

I credit my workshops and critique groups for getting me over the hump.

But now it's time to go. I've realized over the past year that I've been writing more to please my critique group and less to please myself. A story which was panned by my group almost sold to a major market the first time out the door. Stories which were universally loved by my group haven't gotten so much as a nibble. This doesn't mean that they aren't good critiquers. It simply means that what I'm writing isn't resonating with them, and I've been shying away from writing what I know they won't like toward writing what they do. (In all fairness, they did like the story which sold to Interzone. They're a great group. Please don't confuse my decision to leave as anything other than my branching out.)

So I've decided to move to a group of first readers. Two or three of them at most. I don't need or want the in-depth critiques at this point, but I still need a couple extra set of eyes to help me catch my obvious, glaring mistakes.

This decision, while empowering, is also sad. I've grown used to the daily interaction with these wonderful writers and I'll miss hearing their voices every day.

There are enough voices in my head while I'm writing. I really don't need a bunch more, and that's what was happening.

It's time to write for me again.

How fun is that?

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.

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