Random Thoughts About Critique Groups

Last night Fawn did a great job distracting me while I prepped two chapters for this week's feedback session.
Last night Fawn did a great job distracting me while I prepped two chapters for this week’s feedback session.

I just spent an hour writing a blog post for this week. I bored myself silly rambling about my new critique group before deleting everything I’d written. Here’s a bulleted list of the highlights:

  • Critique groups are funny things. (Wow, that’s profound, isn’t it?) Personalities come into play. I’m glad to be an experienced writer, because I don’t sweat the harsh feedback that’s off point or unhelpful. Most of the feedback is great, and I know my style well enough by now to ignore feedback that’s not applicable to the kind of storytelling I do. An example of this might be suggestions to elaborate and clarify on points that I’ve purposefully rendered opaque or vague. After all, I write mysteries.
  • Critique groups are great for detailed not global feedback. Because we hand off one or two chapters at a time, we’re not going to get global suggestions about story structure and flow. The mistake many newbies make (and I did this too) is to assume that if you’ve put a manuscript through a critique group that it’s clean enough to go out on submission. You still need beta readers to read the story as a whole.
  • The thing about critiquing is that because we’re critiquing, we’re not lost in the fictional dream. When lost in the fictional dream, readers are far more accepting than critique partners are. They don’t stop every second sentence to ask “Why is she saying this?” In general, it’s not the details that cause readers to set books aside. It’s whether they like the story and/or whether they like the voice/writing style. So I don’t sweat every nit picky comment from my partners.
  • We can have fun in our critique groups. But this might only occur with a few (or many) years of writerly wisdom under our belts. There’s nothing like being a raw and vulnerable newbie writer to take all the fun out of critique groups — but who said writing was going to be easy?

Who else has a random thought to add to my list? Doesn’t have to be about critique groups either. Please, someone wake me up from this Monday fog!


6 thoughts on “Random Thoughts About Critique Groups

  1. I belong to an excellent crxitique group on FB called Writers World. The feedback I have received on my posted excerpts has taught me a lot and I’ve applied what I learned to my current writing and what I’ve already written. But you need to develop lizard skin when belonging to a great critique group. Sometimes the critiqe you receive can sting. 😀

  2. I’ve been in a couple and there are so many valuable lessons to learn from fellow writers. A lot of them come from the process of reading and critiquing the work of others. As far as receiving critiques, I found the most valuable wisdom gained is the ability to discern when a critique is valid and if you can use that knowledge to improve your story.

    1. Hi Matthew! I agree with you about discernment. It’s key. It’s key not only to improving our manuscripts, but enjoying the critique process. I remember the days when I’d accept all the feedback and valid — I’d drive myself crazy!

  3. The best way of knowing you’re in a good group is if you walk away feeling energized and excited. Even if they ripped your work apart, you can see how to fix it, how to make it so much better. If you leave feeling crushed and discouraged, you’re in the wrong group.

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