My Take on Critique Groups

JOEMARINARO

Photo Credit: The Wild Writers

First off, I have no real take on critique groups because I’ve never been a member of one. But it’s one of those things that many writers have likely thought about at some point whether they’ve been involved in a group or not.

For me, I think it would be the one thing that would actually motivate me to get some writing done. Because if the group is meeting once a week or every two weeks and you’re expected to bring some of your writing for critique, then there would be no hiding the fact that you’re not writing. I mean, it wold be easy to not go, but then what would be the point of joining in the first place if you’re not going to utilize the other writers in the group, right?

I found one in Houston a long time ago before I’d even finished my first book, but decided against joining because there were membership dues when meetings were always at someone’s house. Forget that.

Anyway, now I’d like to know what good joining a critique group has done for you and your writing. You may even convince me to join one myself.

Advertisements

62 thoughts on “My Take on Critique Groups

  1. I’ve thought about finding one to join, but most likely, it would be on the far side of the city, and I barely have time to be mom, wife, employee, read, and write, so adding another activity on top of that would be too much. Plus, there is a certain level of comfort required before I place my soul in someone’s hand to critique face-to-face.

    Like

    • Hm. I’m certain I’d have more time. I just sleep. And being comfortable with someone seeing your work almost defeats the purpose. Then you probably know them personally and their critique is biased from the start.

      Like

      • Then having a face-to-face group seems to also defeat the purpose. As we all know, any type of confrontation is limiting and skews the honest results. Better to join an online group through a chat room.

        Like

      • I don’t think strangers are going to be skewed by seeing you in person. That should be a requirement. Don’t tell anyone anything about your life. Just your writing.

        Like

  2. I don’t think it would help me – I do a Creative and Professional Writing degree at CCCU. It’s already one big critique group. (Also, you typo’ed on “would”, 2nd para – we all do it! πŸ™‚ )

    Like

  3. I have to do critiquing on an ongoing basis at Uni and sometimes it’s not a good experience and sometimes it is. The thing about these groups is that you have to have something to bring and then you have to read other people’s work and make comments (both negative and positive) and sometimes you don’t know how people will react to your remarks. But if you’re in a group long enough and you’re working on the same piece you’re able to make edits to your work that you wouldn’t have made if you were on your own, you may also be inspired by other writers work as well.
    I currently have a critique group that meet over on Skype, we just send files over and we take about a day (timezones) to get back together and talk about the work. It’s not always about meeting face-to-face, technology allows people to get work sent around faster and it saves on printing.

    Like

  4. I don’t blame you. I’m not going to pay for something that’s at your house, lol.

    Like

  5. I am a critique group advocate. A good group can point out the flaws in your work that you can’t see, as well as provide support. That being said, a bad group can kill your creativity. It is a lot like dating – you have to meet people before you know if they are a good fit. Sometimes it works out and sometimes you have to leave a group that is toxic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Our group, The Wild Writers, has been together for almost 30 years. It’s invaluable. But you have to find a group of writers that mesh. And we have a few rules. We only meet once a month so no one gets burnt out meeting too often. And we email our complete novels to members and reserve a meeting where we will be talking about the manuscript. Reading the entire draft first lets us critique story structure and character arcs. When you only read one chapter at a time in a meeting, then you tend to focus on line editing. Ultimately, that’s not going to help you resolve a soggy middle or a double climax. Finally, we always tell each other what works as well as what doesn’t. You need to know where you were successful and not just where you didn’t pull it off. We all need a pat on the back to keep us going because this is a hard business, full of rejection.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t really thought about it. I think it could be good or bad depending on the writer who does the critiquing. I may have to look into it more, although I doubt there’s anything near where I live.

    Like

    • You don’t have to be a great writer in order to offer a solid critique. Just think of sports analysts. Some were great, some played one season professionally. I don’t think that means one or the other is more knowledgeable. Knowing good writing is knowing good writing.

      Like

      • I understand that, I just was thinking about peoples critiquing skills. I know plenty of writers who are amazing but lack in the editing department. I’m not sure I’d really trust myself to give solid advice on someone’s manuscript. That’s a good example, Don Cherry comes to mind.

        Like

  8. I’m too much of a chicken to join one in person. I don’t know why. I’ve dealt with all the other forms of criticism just fine, but looking someone in the eye when they tell me my story sucks (hypothetically) would be really hard to bear.

    I’m not good at hiding my emotions, so if they said something that angered me or really hurt my feelings, they’d see it in my face and think I was about to smack them.

    Hmm… I probably wouldn’t mind an online group, though. But I know I have to grow more of a thick skin if and when I get published, because there will be people that hate my work.

    Like

    • Hm. This does not sound like the Amy I’m used to. You’ve told me a million times that writers need thick skin and that it doesn’t matter what other people think of your writing.

      Like

      • Yeah, I know. I’m going through a confidence slump. And I’m a lot better at giving advice than taking my own.

        Like

      • Well I’m in no position to give you a boost. Haven’t read in months. Haven’t written in about a month. And both just make me angry. You’ve done a whole lot more than I have. So there’s that.

        Like

      • Why do they make you angry?

        I honestly wish there was some way to help.

        Like

      • Because my whole reason for not working during the week is because I’m supposed to write on those days. And I don’t.

        Like

      • Hmm… I guess I’d be angry too. What worked last year when you wrote your first book?

        Like

      • The excitement of writing a book.

        Like

      • Why aren’t you excited this time? Because you know how much hard work it will be?

        Like

      • Just not.

        Like

      • Well… I’m not sure what kind of advice to give. I was in your shoes in the fall. Three or four months of nada.

        Would it help to bounce your ideas off of someone? Or to share what you’re thinking if you’re stuck? Sometimes talking it out helps to fuel the creative juices. Do you have someone you can trust to do that?

        Like

      • Eh. I’m good. Someone just asked me about my writing yesterday. Maybe I’ll talk to her about it. Maybe.

        Like

      • You need to find someone close to home that you can talk to in person. That helps me a lot. When I’m in a funk, I talk to one of my friends and just getting the idea out there again makes me excited and proud of my work.

        Like

      • That’s not going to happen. I’ll write when I feel like it.

        Like

      • Gotcha. Good luck, Wordsmith!

        Like

      • Oh! Btw, I have a hilarious story waiting in the wings whenever you want one.

        Like

      • You can tell me now.

        Like

      • Jeez. Don’t sound so happy about it. πŸ™‚

        So this was late at night and I was putting on a face mask – the girly kind we use to keep our skin looking good – but this one was jet black.

        I smeared it all over my face and had to let it sit while it hardened.

        Then, of course, there was an unexpected knock on my door. I never have unexpected visitors, so I was a bit freaked out, but I answered the door, completely forgetting about the mask in my anxiety over the random stranger.

        And boy, did she get the shock of her life!! Haha! She squeaked and stared and I must have looked so crazy that she raced down the hallway.

        Then I remembered the mask! Haha!! Score one for me! Able to fend off strangers without a single weapon. πŸ™‚

        Like

      • Ahaha that’s pretty funny. I don’t see how you could forget you have something smeared all over your face, BUT that’s okay. I don’t think you should count on those skin masks always working that well. Lol

        Like

      • Oh, I don’t think they do. It was a rare occurrence, which is what makes it funnier. I never use them. Except, of course, that night.

        And fear can do crazy things, including making me forget what’s smeared on my face. Don’t you remember that I’m like the biggest fraidy cat in the world?

        Like

      • I remember. Which is why you should have something to protect yourself. A friend of mine moved into an apartment in a new city earlier this year, and she’s tiny, like 5″3′, 100 pounds, first thing I told her was to get pepper spray. Or something. She didn’t. But still.

        Like

      • Yeah… I’m nowhere near that small, and even though I live in the Detroit area and have worked in downtown Detroit, for some reason I’ve never even thought about buying pepper spray. But I might have to look into it.

        Like

      • I know. But my CJ degree gives me a little tiny insight into crime and all that.

        An example is where I live. It’s considered wealthy and safe and this and that, right? Crime can’t possibly be committed here. Wrong. I always tell people to go onto the county website and look at the docket. Every crime you can think of is always happening around here, except murder. I don’t know. I’m not saying you’re oblivious or anything. Just a thought.

        Like

      • I’m sure you are far more aware of that stuff than I am. And having had stuff stolen from me, as well as having gas siphoned, I’m not completely oblivious, but since I don’t watch the news, I know I’m not aware as I should be. It’s more of a conscious ignorance, but there is a history of some of my mom’s family being murdered, so I’m a bit of a safety nut. It can make me paranoid at times, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

        Like

      • Oh man. That’s scary.

        Like

      • Yep. That’s why I’m super careful about safety and such.

        Like

  9. It wasn’t so much that I joined a group, but that my classmates and I have kept in touch. Occasionally we’ll send each other pieces of work, and I’ve always found it encouraging and informative.

    But, now that I live about 1900 miles away from the others, I’m considering finding a group as well. I’m almost done with my second novel, but I still haven’t finished editing the first one. I had a good head of steam going, and then I got busy, and I didn’t want to stop writing, so the editing stopped.

    Maybe a group could help me along…

    Like

  10. I would probably love something like this. I’ve actually never heard of it, but I can think it would be fun to have the push at times. Unfortunately all the writers around here that I know, are all women that are 60 years plus, and half of them I really don’t like. I’d love to meet with a group of younger writers.

    Like

    • You’ve never heard of critique groups? You obviously live under a rock.

      Like

    • Kate, I’m 60+ years. I’ve been in groups that have members of all ages, from high school kids to senior citizens like me. One group had an artist/illustrator and a folk singer/songwriter. All were welcome as part of the group. Young and old can share ideas and learn from each other. Since professional writers span all ages, you might be surprised that some old fart has some talent and good ideas. Some of us have even been published! LOL

      Like

      • Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that as a critique per say on age. I know everyone practically in my town, since it is so small (800) and the writers and I don’t exactly get along. So that was more of what I meant. I should have clarified. I totally think I can learn from other writers that are older than I am, and I value their opinion. Hey, they’ve been at it longer than I have and know the ropes. Sorry for that faux pas. :/

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I have belonged to several groups over the years. All in all, I’ve found such groups to be helpful. The best ones are not solely dedicated to just critiques; they support and encourage one another as well as offer suggestions and feedback. Sometimes I get very good advice, and if more than one person points out the same problem with my writing, I know I need to make some revisions and edits. The writer on the receiving end of the critique has to decide whether the feedback has merit and credibility, or if it is just someone’s opinion. I think groups are great for writers of all levels. In my group, we critique, and we also have teaching sessions in which a writing topic is discussed. Often copies of the lesson are passed to read, or sometimes actual activities are conducted.

    Like

  12. The trick is finding one that isn’t too large and that has writers working at your relative level of competence. I joined a writers meetup last year that was far too big and had a wide spectrum of talent levels attending, so the critiques got a little tedious. Wasn’t much value add. But with a small group of focused and like-minded peers I think there’s a whole lot of value. We all need Beta readers, might as well sit in the same room with them so you can see them cringe…

    Like

  13. Just a thought on groups. Some people are intimidated by reading their work and receiving criticism. A good group will have rules or guidelines for critiques. No one should be allowed to attack another’s work. Comments and constructive criticism can be offered in a non-threatening, professional and positive way. There is a right way and a wrong way to critique.

    Like

  14. Interesting debate. Ok – there is a big difference between constructive criticism by someone who knows what they are talking about and who also can make positive suggestions as to how you might improve – and destructive criticism. Often the latter is spouted by those who have the least idea of what they are talking about. A good critique group may have writers at different levels, but you have to leave your ego at the door. Everyone should take turns and there should be no grudge holding or playground spite. (She was mean about my opening chapter so I’m going to pour scorn on her characterisation). The rule is – if it doesn’t work – why and what can be done about it. The aim is to make the work better – not ego stroking.
    I’ve delivered and received a lot of writing criticism and most professional writing crits aren’t interested in your feelings, so you just have to suck it up and develop a thick skin. I get annoyed at the writers who whine: ‘You don’t understand what I’m trying to do’ and go on to explain in tedious detail what they MEANT to say. In the words of Jeannette Winterson, ‘I don’t give a shit about what’s in your head – if it’s not on the page, it’s not THERE.’
    There are also writers who only want praise. They will never get better. They are always the ones who remain convinced that publishing is a conspiracy to keep maverick geniuses like themselves out. But if you can come to a good writing critique group with an open mind, you will learn how to critique your own work and help other writers with theirs.

    Like

    • Oh my goodness. Probably the single greatest comment anyone has written on my blog. Nothing I can say except that you are absolutely right.

      Like

      • Thanks John. Glad you found it useful. But want to reiterate that as a writer, it’s really awful when you know, you just KNOW that something isn’t clicking but you don’t know why. A good course won’t dampen your creativity (a lot of people say this) but what it will do is give you a set of technical tools so rather than flailing about, you take out your toolkit and fit it yourself.
        Oh yeah and I’m shit at applying this advice to myself. When a friend I trust points out that the main character wouldn’t do this or that, I sulk and grit my teeth. Only later do I take her advice on board and mutter ‘yeah thanks.’

        Like

  15. Pingback: I Introduce to you…Johnny Reads! | Write me a book, John!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s