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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcome Vickie McDonough and Long Trail Home


VICKIE MCDONOUGH is an award-winning author of 25 books and novellas. Her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s BOTY/Carol Awards. Vickie is the author of the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series from Barbour Publishing. Watch for her new books from Moody Publishers, Texas Trails: A Morgan Family series, in which she partners with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin to write a 6-book series that spans 50 years of the Morgan family. The first three books release this fall. Also, next year brings the release of another new series from Guidepost/Summerside, Pioneer Promises, set in 1870s Kansas.

You can find out more about Vickie and her books at

by Vickie McDonough
Published by Moody Publishers


A weary soldier returns from the War Between the States to discover his parents dead, his family farm in shambles, and his fiancée married. Riley Morgan takes a job at the Wilcox School for Blind Children and tries to make peace with God and himself. When a pretty, blind woman who cares for the children reaches through his scarred walls and touches his heart, he begins to find renewed faith and hope for the future. But when he discovers Annie feigned her blindness just to have a home, will his anger and hurt drive him away and ruin all chances for a future filled with love, faith, and family?

Readers, buy your copy of LONG TRAIL HOME today!


Critique Groups – Life or Death to a Writer

I can say without a doubt that I’m published today because of the help I’ve received from my critique group partners. They’ve encouraged me when I wanted to give up on writing. They taught me to show, not tell. I learned point of view from them, and they’ve become my friends. Most of my experience with critique groups has been positive, but that hasn’t always been the case.

I nearly quit writing because of the harsh comments I received in my first critique group, when I was a brand new writer and green as a pickle. The critiques from one member made my manuscript pages look like bloody road kill. I cried many tears over her harsh comments on my many mistakes and lost confidence in my ability to write. Looking back, she was probably right in her assessment, but at the time, I wasn’t ready for such in-depth critiques.

As a more experienced writer now, I crave those detailed assessments. Tell me what’s not working in my story. Did a section leave you scratching your head in confusion? Does the dialogue of the children in my story sound like real children or is it too mature? Is my bad boy hero too unlikable? I want to know what works and what doesn’t.

You may not be at the stage where you want such detailed critiques. Maybe you only want help with grammar issues, or maybe you want help with your dialogue or someone to help you brainstorm a new story. The important thing is to find a critique group that fits your needs.

So, how do you find one? Most online and local writers’ clubs have critique groups you can join. I also did a Google search and discovered there were eighty-two pages of critique group listings! Wow! There are ones for any genre: non-fiction, short stories, all types of fiction, and even children’s books.

There are critique groups that submit weekly, others twice a month, and some monthly. Some groups submit a chapter at a time, while others have a page limit. Some groups are a mixture of writers of different genres, while others are genre-specific.

So why do you need a critique group? Besides the fact that you are networking with other writers, you will learn a lot, especially if you’re a newer writer. Often the more experienced writer just needs another set of eyes to look at her story before it’s shipped off to an editor. A critique group is also a good place to ask questions and to brainstorm.

Some of the key things you want critiquers to look for in your manuscript are:

    • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors – Be sure to submit your best work, not your rough draft. Critiquers will tire out quickly if you use them as a spellchecker.
    • Continuity issues – Does your heroine have green eyes in the beginning of the story and blue eyes at the end? Did you accidentally change your hero’s name? Does your widow heroine have two children at the beginning of the book and one at the end?
    • Overused words – just, really, that, etc.
    • Point of view problems
    • Author intrusion
    • Too many –ly words instead of strong verbs
    • Telling instead of showing
    • Too many dialogue tags – he replied, she murmured
    • Inconsistencies in storyline or character’s behavior
    • Clichés
    • Stereotyped characters
Of course there are plenty other things to watch for, but these are the main issues. The most important thing to do is to point out the positive along with all that needs fixing. I like to put happy faces or LOL at places that make me smile or somewhere that the writing is especially nice, but remember, it’s called a critique group for a reason. It’s not to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but rather to give you beneficial advice on how to improve your story.

You’re sure to find the right critique group if you get out there and hunt for it. You might kiss a few frogs before finding a group that’s a good fit, but it’s well worth the time and effort. You’re writing will improve greatly under the tutelage of a few good critiquers.

* * * * *

Thank you, Vickie, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: Have you ever been a part of a critique group? More than one? Were they helpful or not? Why? If you're not a writer, have you ever been part of a group supposed to help you in some way toward a specific goal? Was it successful? How so?

ENTRY RULES Readers, leave your email address (name at domainname dot com/net) along with your answer to the question for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of your choice of ANY book on Vickie's web site. If you do not answer the question, and your email address isn't provided, you will not be entered.

The contest is open to US/Canada residents only.


Carla Gade said...

Super post, Vickie and Amber on critique groups. I am blessed to have an amazing critique group and have learned so much. It helps to put on a thick skin and not take things personally, it is one person's assessment of your writing and ALWAYS worth considering. It is better to come before publication than after.


carlagade [at] gmail [dot] com

Jodie Wolfe said...

Love your insights Vickie and the reminder too. :) Love your writing!

Jodie Wolfe

Rhonda Gibson said...

Hi Vickie and Amber! Yes I have been a part of a critque group, several actually. One crit group made me feel as if I had no idea how to write and this was AFTER I was published. I left that group and continued on and as you can tell I'm still being published (thanks be to the Lord)

Words can hurt but now I have another group of critiquers and their words do often hurt but it's a good hurt. I know they have my best interest at heart. And that my writing will grow from their help.

Like you, Vickie, I don't think I'd be where I am now with my career without my crit group.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Long Trail Home sounds like my kind of book, Vickie...but all of your books are "my kind" of book! lol I love your sense of humor.

Great post on critique groups. I don't have a critique "group," per se - but I do have a couple of critique partners that I treasure. Wouldn't dream of sending off a manuscript without their input. I also had one of those awful critiques early on that nearly put an end to my writing career. I cried for days, and only my husband's support and God's intervention made me try to write again. I pray I never do that to any writer - new or experienced. It's not necessary to be cruel in order to point out the flaws. And you're right - it's always nice for the author being critiqued to also find a couple of good things pointed out, if the critiquer can do so honestly.

Thanks for the great post, Vickie and Amber!

Anonymous said...

Nice shout out to your critique group, Vickie! :) Great interview. Congratulations!

Matt J.

Susan Hollaway said...

Hi, Amber! Hi, Vickie!
I really enjoyed reading this post -- very informative and encouraging!

Yes and no. I'm not part of an official critique "group," but I have a couple of writers who take the time to critique my work for me and allow me to be blessed on occasion to critique for them. Without the marks on my manuscript, I would learn nothing.
I have learned SO much from the marks on my WIP.

I would not be growing as a writer without all the people who have given so generously of their time to help me. I am beyond grateful.

Vickie McDonough said...

Carla, that's great that you have a critique group that is so helpful.

Hi Jodie! How are things with you?

Hey Rhonda. The first critique group that I was in nearly put an end to my writing hopes too. But I'm glad I persevered--and glad you did too.

Thanks, Matt!

Susan, you're so right. I wouldn't be where I am without my crit groups. I still rely on them and just sent out something to one group today.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome storyline and a great idea to have the heroine feign blindness. Vickie, you're truly a fabulous writer and an even cooler friend. It would be an absolute delight to win the Long Trail Home and I look forward to spending the holiday with you (Saturday) :)
Glad to see you on A Fictional Life!

Christina Rich said...

Vickie, I am grateful you didn't quit writing. You are one of my favorites!!

christinainspirationals [at] gmail dot com

Avery Cove said...

Vickie, I know every critique group I've worked with has helped me learn more about my writing and writing in general that I can say FIND ONE if you aren't a part of one! And the camaraderie can be awesome. :)

Nancy J Farrier said...

Loved this post, Vickie. I had to laugh about being "green as a pickle." I love pickles, but I'm glad I'm not that green anymore. Great advice.

Margaret Daley said...

Yes, I've been a part of a critique group--yours. Great post, Vickie.

Keli Gwyn said...

I have two awesome critique partners who give me honest feedback. They push me to take my stories to the next level, and I'm so thankful for their input and support.

Vickie McDonough said...

Thanks, Lex and Christina. You're making me blush.

Great advice, Avery. It's true about the camaraderie. Most of my critique partners have become very close friends.

Me too, Nancy. The thing is-when I was so "green" I didn't even know it then.

Waving at Margaret. Words can't express how glad I am that we became critique partners.

Vickie McDonough said...

That's awesome, Kelli. Good critique partners are a blessing.

Cheryl said...

Excellent post. I love my critique groups. They are both online--one dedicated solely to children's books, the others mixed genres. They help me to see what is unclear in my writing. Something I could never do on my own because I'm too close to it.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas.


Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Here is the winner for this drawing: