Probably the best thing I’ve done to perfect my craft has been to join a critique group. Not that this was originally my idea – I had no idea what critique groups were or what they did.

So I joined two, just to be on the safe side.

Okay, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense. But the two groups are kind of like two very different advisors to the queen (nice analogy since I’m writing historical fiction). Or, for those of us who might be more familiar with the business world, I’m the CEO of my writing, and my critique partners are my executives. Either way, I present some sort of problem (namely, my work!) and my partners provide inputs their best inputs.

My “local” critique group – the folks that I actually meet in person – are kind of a motley bunch. We represent wildly different ages, walks of life, personal tastes, and oh, not to mention genre – right now we’ve got 1 person who writes thrillers, another writing young adult, 1 guy writes sci-fi, one woman writing a memoir, and then historical fiction “me.” And then our occasional tag along – like a husband, wife, adult kid – sits in for entertainment (sick, sick people!!!). About the only thing we all have in common is that none of us are published authors. Call me surprised, but this group does pretty well on picking up on things in a work that a genre-specific group might not. (“That’s way too much detail!”, “Do you have to say that now??”, etc.)

Contrast this with my online critique group – the Medieval Fiction Writers Group. A great bunch of ladies (almost entirely). Not that anybody’s a man-hater, but I think that’s just how it all worked out. Anyhoos – most of us focus on fiction set in medieval times, and several are published (not that I’m numbered in that subset of the group!). And from these lovely folks, I get the genre-specific goodies that I’ve been hankering (like, just how should I handle that annoying backstory???)

But OMG – realization has set in. And it’s pretty darn scary.

I’ve finally figured out (and you say Finally? How could you not have known this?) that in spite of my well-intentioned, knowledgeable critique partners, it all comes back to me. That, like the queen, I have advisors from different walks of life and with different areas of expertise, who provide me their best counsel.  No question, their advice is invaluable. But often, my advisors will disagree with each other on the exact same issue.

Then it’s up to me, the queen – or CEO, whichever analogy works for you – to make the executive decision on my writing.  And it’s that decision that ultimately determine’s the quality of my work and my ultimate success. I can’t blame my critique partners for any counsel that I heeded or advice that I spurned.

And that’s the scary thing – and the great one, also.