Thursday, July 28, 2011

Early Warning

My parents made us go to bed WAY too early.

Not that I blame them. There were six of us, and the brother just older than me and the one just younger than me were certifiable geniuses / mischievous / full of ideas and energy. I can’t think of many more exhausting-to-parent combinations.

Or one more interesting and fun! Because lemme tell you– my childhood was nothing if not interesting and fun.

So my parents sent us all to bed on weeknights at 8:00. Of course we couldn’t go to SLEEP then. We snuck outside in the snow barefooted to dance in the light of the dining room light where my parents sat working on their own projects, unable to see us through the mirror the window became. Or we snuck into each other’s rooms and created gadgets, or painted things, or played games. All in silence so we wouldn’t get caught. I mean we were GOOD.

But my parents would randomly check on us. When I was in fourth grade and my brother was in sixth, he created an “Early Warning System.” He ran electrical wire along the ceiling the full length of the long hall that lead to all of our rooms, and wired two lights above each of our doors, one red and one green. My brother’s room was right next to the stairs, so he was the first to know if my parents were coming. He'd flip the switch that changed the lights from green to red, and we’d all scramble to our own rooms and fake asleep. (We were good at that, too.) Sometimes he’d hear a creak at the top of the stairs and switch the lights to red and we’d scramble, but it turned out to be nothing— my parents weren’t actually coming. Most of the time, though, there weren’t false alarms.

As writers, we have our own early warning system! We usually call them critique groups or critique partners. When there are things that are going to get us in trouble, they’re the ones who are going to warn us. Sure, there can be false alarms! Especially if we submit to them chapter by chapter, with very much time in between submitting. But for the most part, a great group / partners will let us know that if we continue doing what we’re doing, it’s going to land us into trouble before the end.

My critique group? I consider them lifesavers. There are lots of ways groups can work. We submit a chapter a week and meet together, because that’s what works for us. There are so many times their comments on one chapter tell me I need to tweak the next chapter before I even send it to them.

I think critique groups are invaluable. Irreplaceable. Worth their weight in gold.

How do you feel about critiques? Do you welcome them? Fear them? Have a great group or partners? Wish you had different partners? But more importantly, how do you feel about mischievous geniuses?


Jessie Humphries said...

I wish I had a good one. Thats how I feel about them.

Jen said...

lol! I can so see my kids doing things like this later in life. I have a few critique partners that I LOVE, but I wish I had more that would be willing to read my whole book and not just the first chapter. So if your interested *wink, wink*

David Powers King said...

Fun story, and an excellent way to apply them to critique groups. Now, if only my kid could sneak around, quietly, after bedtime . . .

Stacy Henrie said...

I'm so grateful for my crit group - they have helped me become a much better writer and develop a thicker skin. :)

CherylAnne Ham said...

That is a great story! You guys really were GOOD. :D

I love my CPs but I do wish I had a group that met locally as well. I think it would be fun to really spend some time talking to other writers face to face.

The East Coaster said...

With your brother at my side, I would have been unstoppable. As it was, I was mostly stopped.

To the issue of crit groups, I've recently found one that actually critiques. They've been amazing. I'm from the school of thought that says: the harsher, the better. I count myself lucky to have found them.

Jolene Perry said...

I pick my people VERY carefully. I only exchange a chapter or two before I do a full-on critique.

I can't think of a time when I felt stuck and wanted help, but NO ONE should ever submit anything without another look-see, or four...

Michele Philhower said...

I also come from a family of 8, but my twin sister and I shared the room right across from my parents' room and our older siblings all slept upstairs. We still managed to play a LOT when we were supposed to be sleeping. We still laugh about the games we played. Once my brother and his friend strung a wire across the street so they could talk on their 1970's NOT wireless walkie talkies and lightning hit the wire causing a burn mark on his window. He is now literally a rocket scientist.

As for crit partners, I have met several online on Goodreads. It is so helpful to have those fresh eyes read your story!

Abby said...

Ah - mischievous geniuses, I love them, except when it comes to my own kids of course! lol. Sounds like you and your siblings take the prize though. That is so awesome.

And I am barely getting into a critique group. The two girls I have worked with so far are angels from heaven. I was SO nervous at first but now I am just purely grateful to have them. Couldn't make it without them. :)

Christine Tyler said...

Sometimes I feel like my CP singlehandedly saved my manuscript, just by being such a good friend I could call her up and be like, "so I have 14 different ideas and I need to describe them to someone to hear how stupid they are out loud. Do you have six hours?"

Love the personal story applied to the writing advice. It's one of my favorite kind of posts.

You and your siblings rock. But you already knew that.

Christine Tyler said...


Peggy Eddleman said...

Jessie! You need to get yourself one! Do writers tend to stay far from the land of the boiling sun? Then online is WHERE IT IS AT.

Jen-- I hope they do! Mischievous kids are cool. And sadly, I can't take on another project right now without my kids mounting a full-scaled mutiny. :( Maybe after school gets going?

David-- Because he stays in bed doing something boring-- like sleeping-- or because he sneaks around NOT so quietly?

Stacy-- I feel exactly the same way about mine!

CherylAnne-- I know! One of the members of our group moved, so he always Skypes in. Sometimes if someone else can't come, we just all Skype. It's a huge difference to not be face-to-face! It's hard to gauge how people are reacting to things.

The East Coaster-- I wish I could've loaned my brother to you a bit! It sounds like you would've had superpowers! And yay on a critique group that goes beyond just telling you that everything you write rocks! As nice as that is to hear... not nearly as helpful.

Jolene-- I totally agree.

Michele-- I love that story! It must've been fun growing up with your brother! My dad was literally a rocket scientist too. Maybe it comes with the territory. :)

Abby-- I know! It all seems so scary... until you actually get critiques. Then you realize just how fabulous it is! And yes-- when the mischievous genius is your own kid, it's way different.

Christine-- Your CP sounds awesome! And so helpful! And thanks!

J+S said...

Really - you hooked up a system to warn the other siblings? That's awesome and I totally wish we would have thought of that.


Michelle Fayard said...

I love how you start off with a great story then segue into an analogy, Peggy. Yes, a critique group truly is an early warning system and more. Good critiquers can be extremely difficult to find, but it's worth the wait.