Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Please Welcome My Guest, Marilyn Meredith, Mystery Author - Morgan Mandel

A Tulare County Supervisor, with both Native American and Mexican roots, dies under suspicious circumstances. Because of Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s own ties to the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, she’s asked to help with the investigation. To complicate matters, besides the supervisor’s husband, several others had reason to want the woman dead.

Tempe has unsettling dreams, dreams that may predict the future and bring back memories of her grandmother’s stories about the legend of the Hairy Man. Once again, Tempe’s life is threatened and this time, she fears no one will come to her rescue in time.

Now that you've heard something about Marilyn's latest book, here's some great advice from Marilyn about Critique Groups.

The Value of a Writing Critique Group By Marilyn Meredith

Though I certainly realize all critique groups are not the same, I couldn’t get along without my critique group. I’ve belonged to it for twenty-eight years. I found it through an ad in the newspaper when I first moved into the area.

The group began as a college creative writing class that kept attracting the same students. It evolved into a group that met in the instructor’s home. When I joined, the group moved from home to home and the instructor was taking a break. At that time, there were at least ten members, often making it impossible for every writer to read what they brought. In that case, the ones who were left out got to read first the next week.

For a short while, the group consisted of people who were more interested in getting together than writing. One fellow couldn’t stand to be criticized. The new facilitator suggested that we move to her home and handpick who should join us—those who were serious about their writing. From that time forward nearly everyone who has become a regular participant really wants to improve their writing.

People move on for one reason or another, and at this time we are now meeting in the originator’s home, the instructor who started it all. We have five regular participants. Each one brings a chapter, about ten pages or so, with pages printed out for everyone to follow along as the author reads and writes comments.

We have some loose rules. No interruptions while the author is reading. When he or she is done, we take turns critiquing the piece—again, no interruptions. After, if the author wants to explain something, that’s allowed. However, we’ve all come to realize that if an explanation is necessary, some rewriting is needed.

I’m the most published of the group, but I find its help invaluable. I consider them my first editor. I’m the only one writing mystery, but that hasn’t been a problem. One member is great at finding grammar mistakes and inconsistencies in content. A younger author always picks up on dialogue or clothing that’s old-fashioned or doesn’t fit the piece. She also gave me some great tips on how to describe running on the beach. Our one and only man is invaluable for problems with firearms, cars, and male dialogue. Another member doesn’t give much criticism but writes great comments and suggestions on the chapter itself.

When I’m home, usually the next day, and start going through the chapter, using the papers they’ve made their notes on, I’m amazed at the different mistakes they’ve found and the variety of comments. Of course there are some I don’t agree with, but usually just the fact that something bothered the reader gives me a nudge and I find a better way to write the sentence or paragraph.

At my most recent writer meeting, I thought what I’d brought was a truly exciting action scene. When I was through, one of the members said, “You’re not going to like what I have to say.” Gulp. He thought the whole chapter was too choppy. I had to think about that for awhile. The others voiced their opinion and more or less agreed. I know that when I’m writing something exciting, I don’t write as much as I should. Most authors seem to have the opposite problem and become too wordy.

So now it’s up to me to flesh out the chapter, develop it so it won’t be “choppy.” I can do that.

Thank goodness for my critique group because I honestly thought it an exciting piece. Oh, the excitement was there, I just left too many questions unanswered as the others pointed out one by one.

Yes, they heard every chapter of my latest book, Dispel the Mist, as well as most of the others in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. In fact, they know Tempe almost as well as I do. Besides being critique partners, they’ve all become good friends despite having different backgrounds. We all have one thing in common—we want to be the best writers possible.
Marilyn Meredith

Dispel the Mist is available from the publisher as an e-book and trade paperback as well as online and your local bookstore.

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over twenty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. No Sanctuary is the newest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, WOK, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. She makes her home in Springville CA, much like Bear Creek where Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. Visit her at and at her blog -

Please leave a comment for Marilyn. Maybe you have some good or bad experiences with critique groups you'd like to share, or maybe you'd just like to say hello.


Morgan Mandel said...

Welcome to Acme Authors Link, Marilyn.

I hope you have a good time here.

Morgan Mandel

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing such an interesting interview.
Looks a great book.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thank you for having me, Morgan. I always enjoy visiting you.

And you're welcome, Barry.


Maryannwrites said...

Nice explanation of how a critique group can be beneficial. I have been in two groups, both operated much like you described, and I learned a lot about the craft of writing by paying attention. I learned from the direct critiques, as well as the critiques of other work.

Handpicking members may seem a little snooty, but it sure made a difference when the groups were made up of people who really did want to learn and not just get smiles and kind words.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

We let someone who wants to come visit one Wednesday out of the month and that way we can tell if they are really interested in critiquing and take being criticized.


Deb Larson said...

Thanks for being with us today! Your critique group sounds wonderful. I've been part of one off and on and always enjoyed it, both for myself and helping others.
Your books sound intriguing. Best of luck with sales!!!
DL Larson

Helen said...

It is difficult to write a tense or fast-action scene so it reads the way you want it to read and flow, without it sounding choppy!

Straight From Hel

Debra St. John said...

Hi Marilyn,

Thanks for blogging with us today.

I agree, a good critique group is so important. My RWA group, Chicago-North, has a fabulous bunch of critiquers. I ever would have sold without their invaluable help and advice.

Margot Justes said...

Thank you for blogging with Acme Authors. A good contructive critique group, or just an individual critique is a terrific way to learn.
Margot Justes

O.G said...

Hello Marilyn,

Congrats on your new book and thanks for such an interesting article.

Critique groups are indispensable to the writer especially in this day and age when many editors at large publishing houses don't do so much editing anymore.

A good online writers' critique group is

Rob said...

Hello my friend Marilyn -- Love taht you are continuing to publish and not too busy to stop by at ACME. We love you here. Great take on critique groups. I have been in great ones and bad....the great one was the one I RAN...the bad one, guess.