Monday, March 30, 2009

Four Ways to Get the Most out of Your Critique Group

Some writers will say that they don't use a critique group; others wouldn't consider their manuscript polished without the input from one. There are both online critique groups and face-to-face groups. Whether you use a critique group or not is up to you, but there are ways to get the most out of your critique group.

First, a critique group should be comprised of fellow writers who share common goals and it works best if they're writing in the same genre. For example, if you write children's picture books, and another person writes memoirs, it fits best if you join a group that writes picture books and let the other find a memoir group. Look at it this way. If you have a forest green couch, and your partner buys a bright orange floral couch, there won't be a good fit in the living room!

Second, a critique group should be comprised of a small group of people, usually no more than 5 or 6, who are committed to each other and helping each other polish their manuscript. Most online groups work that one writer submits a piece to the rest of the group and expect a critique back by the end of the week. Face-to-face groups can work the same way as well, with the piece to be critique sent via email a week prior to the next group meeting. Obviously, in either of these situations, it wouldn't work well to have more than 5-6 people because of the long time between critiques.

Third, when you join a critique group, you have the right to expect honesty in the critique from your fellow group members. Honesty, however, does not equal brutality. Just as there is always writing in the submission that needs addressing, there are good points in that person's writing. The good critiquer will point out not only errors, but also the places where the writer did a great job. Brutal honesty has no place in a critique, as it can damage and discourage fellow writers.

Fourth, as a group grows and changes together, relationships develop between the writers, and these relationships can foster a sense of comradeship and security. I have been in groups where the writers have bared their souls to each other in their writing, and did so knowing they wouldn't be slammed. The development of these relationships can extend beyond the critique group, and are an important part of networking with others.

Critique groups can help polish a manuscript and further the career of any writer, often times resulting in relationships that will carry through the rest of the writers lives. Whether or not you join such a group is your decision, but membership in a good critique can be a writer's best friend.


General de 15mm said...

Katie, great, now, how do you get a critique group? :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

A great on critique groups! As Miguel said, another blog post about finding on would help a lot of writers. Just an idea! I enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing!

Deb Hockenberry said...

Hi Katy,
Loved todays blog! You brought out some good points of the give & take of critique groups. Especially, about being brutally honest. If people do this, you lose. Period.
Deb :-)

Jan Verhoeff said...

Critique groups often don't have the stamina to keep up with the load, if you or other members belong to more than one group. However, if you have a basic understanding of moving forward EVEN when everyone doesn't comment, the group moves faster and stays on course, even though one person may get bogged down. The circle grows strong.

As the circle strengthens, the group finds merit in their efforts and becomes effective. They often support the - Coolest Woman on the Planet - in the group as a whole spectrum of people, rather than as competition. It's a fascinating option for motivation. Competition that is... huh, Katie!

Donna McDine said...

Katie...fantastic pointers for critique groups. Constructive critique with postives is a must! Well done!

Best wishes,

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Great piece on critique groups, Katie.:) For anyone who wants to find a group if you are a member of any writers' group such as SCBWI they have lists of groups. Also, if you are on Facebook ask some of your writer friends if they know of any.

I agree with Katie that you form relationships that last for the rest of your life. There is a bond of trust that is built that comes from sharing your writing.


Jeffery E Doherty said...

Very interesting points you have made Katie. They make a lot of sense and probably why our local writer's group isn't that productive. Everyone is into something different and at different stages of their writing lives. I think it is time I search out other children's writers. Ones who are serious about being published.