July 6, 2011

Critiquing and The Causation Fallacy

I've seen writers bitterly complain when the friend of a published novelist gets a book deal -- certainly they're just riding coattails.  There might be a correlation here, perhaps even a causality, but I sincerely doubt it's the one complainers are thinking of when they shake their fists.

Let's assume that the published author and friend are both in a writing group together (I can name several incidences like this, so I think that's likely).  People bring different strengths to a writing group.  Something I've noticed about a good writing group is that people have different strengths.  Someone might have a killer eye for plot holes.  Someone might tune into how well the emotions are working, or the pacing, or a dozen different things.

All these things work together for the good of the author and the manuscript, who goes out and sells it.  Huzzah!  A breakthrough.

Would it really be surprising then, that a second person from the same writing group also get a contract?  Maybe the friendship helps them wiggle a toe in the door, but I'm convinced manuscripts stand or fall on their own merit.  This second author is critiquing and writing regularly in a good group.  He or she is likely also doing other things (reading, going to conferences, sending out manuscripts).  I doubt having supporting writing friends hurts, either.

Which brings us to our last Critique Secret: Good critique groups help each other succeed.  Hopefully after this series, that doesn't sound like a secret.

Do I think it's coincidence that there are a number of writer's friends who get published?  Of course not.  But I doubt there's some secret ring of agents and editors laughing maniacally in the corner, either (unless they're currently watching Megamind, which was excellent). 

There's a lot more to say about critiquing (I'm sure I'll come back to it in the future; I love this topic), but for now, here's the link to Critters, an excellent online critiquing workshop.  Click on "Workshops" on the far right to find genres other than SF/F/H.  If you don't have a writing group, dive into this one!  The water's great.

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