Critique Groups

Yesterday I met with my critique group. It is a highlight of my month when I can meet with them and talk writing. We covered the gamut from the importance of social media to what makes a good query letter. We laughed and shared stories, some of which are most worthy of being put into print. But, most importantly, we shared a common purpose which is to become the best writers we can be.

Critique groups play an important role in the writing process. Getting perspective from a person you can trust helps the writer iron out areas that lack clarity and don’t follow the purpose of the manuscript. Sometimes, it’s as simple as moving paragraphs around and sometimes it’s so complex that the manuscript needs a complete rewrite. Often the writer is too close to see the need for change. We know what we mean and sometimes leave out important details to let the reader see our vision. This is where another critical eye is important.

When looking for a critique group, be specific in your needs and what you have to offer the group. Smaller groups work better than larger groups. In the case of my critique group, we are four writers who all write romantic fiction. Each of us brings something unique to our group. Although none of us are published in book length fiction, we are multi-published authors.

In order to be an effective critique group, trust is vital. I trust these writers to be honest with me. I also trust they will not crucify me personally when critiquing my writing. It never helps a writer when attacked cruelly in a review of his or her work. It is much more effective to get your concerns across through questions and suggestions than through attacks on the writer or her work. Encouragement is an important aspect of your critique group. This is vital whether novice or experienced writer.

I suggest setting up parameters early in the formation of a critique group. If you sense someone in the group who is more interested in building up himself or herself at the expense of the other writers, run, do not walk, but run from that group. It will only lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.

It’s okay for members to be at different levels in their writing. We all have to begin somewhere, and it’s important for the experienced writer to want to help  any novice writers.

How does your critique group function? What’s good and bad about your group? What is the size of your group?