What to Bring to Critique Group by Randal Houle

“Don’t start with the weather, dialog, or use excessive conjunctions,” he said.

Light gray clouds floated overhead and Coldplay oozed out of the coffee shop speakers and the barista asked me four times to confirm my order (black coffee) and the coffee tasted like cheese whiz (like it does when you buy it late night at the local 7-11) and I just wished the day would commit one way or another.

“Well, where should I start?” I asked.

The Novel, my novel, was the subject, but I was having trouble finding the verb. Our critique group featured one of the most knowledgeable yet-to-be-published writers on the planet.

“In Media Res, start in the middle.” He sat up, smiled.

Ooh, it was so simple. I wanted to brain him with my 500-page manuscript. I brought it every week just in case the spirit moved me.

“Of course, how could I have forgotten, the middle,” I replied, not bothering to write down the comment.

“In the end, it may not matter, I’m not such a fan of this genre. I’m more literary,” said the guy who has to explain every week’s submission.

I wondered if I could reach across the table. I might have to get behind him somehow….

“I don’t know how you come up with half that shit,” he added. “What’re you writing there?”

My grip tightened on the pen. Bring 700-page mss. I say, “just a little reminder for next week’s group.”

.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “What to Bring to Critique Group by Randal Houle

  1. Ha ha ha .. haven’t we all belonged to writers’ groups that were a waste of time, space, money energy and filled with a lack of or misguided talent. I laughed at the end of the first line “(Don’t) … use excessive conjunctions” and laughed out loud at “I wanted to brain him with my 500-page manuscript”. I wodner how many of us could say “Been there, done thought, bought the attitude”. Very amusing and easy to identify with. Thank you.

  2. Exactly! I still remember the woman who thought a poem I wrote was about a lovely drive while the character was actually contemplating suicide by ramming into a tree.

    I love this line, it makes the whole story for me: “…I’m not such a fan of this genre. I’m more literary,” said the guy who has to explain every week’s submission.

    • Randal Houle

      Glad you liked that line, Susan. That juicy piece of dialog ripped straight from real life. haha.

      Thank you for reading and most of all, commenting. I really appreciate it.

  3. Quenby Larsen

    Five stars, Randal. This was a beauty for sure. Ha I relished this tension:

    “In the end, it may not matter, I’m not such a fan of this genre. I’m more literary,” said the guy who has to explain every week’s submission.

    I wondered if I could reach across the table. I might have to get behind him somehow….

    “I don’t know how you come up with half that shit…”

    Yowza! You do an awesome job describing setting and dynamics in such a small space. Bravo. (And I wish I could say I had never had such painful writing group experiences, but…)

  4. guy

    E_k =\tfrac{1}{2} mv^2 , so no, don’t take the 700pager, just bring the 500 pager down more quickly.

    Reminds me of seminars & conferences in academia.

  5. I have no experience with this sort of thing, but it was really funny!

    • Randal Houle

      Glad you enjoyed it, Catherine. Thanks for commenting and so faithfully reading my stories here (and submitting your own).

  6. “…one of the most knowledgeable yet-to-be-published writers on the planet.” I enjoyed this!

    • Randal Houle

      Thank you, Stella. That line is a real show-dont-tell sort of thing meant to have a lot of subtext. I’m glad it worked for you.

  7. enjoyed from line 1, which was a perfect breaking of the rule it sets: “Don’t start with the weather, dialog, or use excessive conjunctions,” he said.

    • Randal Houle

      Thank you, Dorothee. Wouldn’t you know this is what I came up with after so many false starts and it sort of became the story.

  8. Pingback: Week #25 – least favorite « 52|250 A Year of Flash

  9. Loved this at fn, Randal, and love it here. A true classic! Peace…

  10. Pingback: Flash Favorites! | Wink/Nudge

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