International Critique Partners

Nearly seven years ago, I stumbled across what was going to be one of the greatest helps to my writing for international markets. In a search for a non-fiction critique group that I could link up with, I put a request onto an online writers group, now known as CWGI. “I’m looking for a non-fiction critique group. If you have room for me, please contact me.”

Within a few hours, I received an email from an American in Virgina, asking me to let her know if I found one. She too wanted to join a non-fiction critique group.

An hour later, I received another email, this time from another American, this time in California. I had “met” this lady on CWGI and interacted with her a few times. “Shirl, if you don’t find one, how about we get together? Would that work?”

I bounced the idea of a new group off a writing friend in England, who was also a member of CWGI. She loved the idea and said, “Me too. I’m in.”

I had never started a Yahoo! group, but when I looked at the “how to” material on their site it seems straight forward. So I formed a new group for non-fiction writers. I called it “Truth Talk” which seemed an appropriate name.

Before I’d contacted the others, I received a phone call from a writing friend in South Africa, who also belonged to CWGI. I told her what I was doing, and asked if she would be interested. She was. By the end of the day, the five of us were members of the newly developed Truth Talk. I drew up a survey based on some I had filled in for other groups, and we started to get to know one another.

Weeks into our relationship, we realised that God had done something special in our lives. Not only were we now a part of a Christian, non-fiction critique group, we had an international flavour–with two Americans, living in different parts of that vast country; two South Africans, who also lived over a thousand miles apart and hadn’t yet met; and one lady in England.

We soon learned we had more than the usual challenge of forming a new group. We wrote in three different Englishes. Even the two Americans often used different words to describe the same object. Yet we came to appreciate the different cultures. We learned from one another and, especially for the three of us who wrote in British or South African English (which is like British) it was a tremendous help. We now had built-in assistants when it came to writing for the American market.

Up until that point, I had known some basic differences, such as the trunk and hood of the car in America, which are the boot and the bonnet in British English. I also knew about the different spelling, but it was good to have people who spotted when I forgot and wrote for an American magazine about flavourinstead of flavor, or said that I was travelling instead of traveling. For the Americans it was a learning curve too. They hadn’t realised (realized) that the rest of the world didn’t spell everything the same way as they did.

However when it came to punctuation, the three of us in the “British camp” discovered we had to remember to put our periods (which we call fullstops) and commas “inside” quotation marks when writing for USA editors and not “outside” like we did in our own country. We learned to use “double quotation marks” when making a quotation, and ‘single quotation marks’ if we put another quotation inside the first one. The countries based on British English do it the other way round.

Since the formation of Truth Talk, a few have had to leave for various reasons and their positions have been taken by others. At the moment, we have an American writer who is married to a Japanese man and often spends time in that country, and an Australian who lives in Japan. So the international atmosphere continues.

If you plan to write for markets in other countries, I urge you to try and link with a few other writers in this way. The benefits are unmeasurable.

You will not only become a better writer, your understanding of the world you live in will broaden. As you critique one another’s writing, you will learn much about them too and a special bond of friendship forms, even though you live thousands of miles apart and may well never meet in this life.

So I urge you. If you’re planning to write for the overseas market, get into a critique group with folk from other countries. And if you can’t find one, form your own. You’ll be so glad you did.