In honor of the contest I’m offering (see previous post) I felt like writing about critique groups.
Critiques are interesting things. Especially when performed by friends and family. Your critique partners are suddenly incapable of being completely honest. “That’s wonderful, I wouldn’t change a thing!” or “That’s good. You’re a fabulous writer.” And my personal favorite “That’s the best thing you’ve written so far!” Usually all lies. At what point did people become afraid to tell the truth? Are they just afraid to hurt our feelings?
We can’t learn and improve that way. If you’re a writer, you must have thick skin. The industry is brutal. We all know this, so why is it so difficult for so many to be honest? Use the red pen liberally. (Let’s face it, a first draft especially warrants a lot of red dressing.)
Perhaps, you have not gathered a group capable of taking the “What happens in critique group stays in critique group” pledge. Good critique partners are essential to help you grow as a writer. You should be able to share your fears and bare your soul to these fellow muses. Hopefully, you will also share contest and author news, information about being involved in writer’s guilds, associations, and competitions as well as how to find the right agent and publisher for your work. You may even become inspired to try new things.
So, how do you find this dream group?
1.) Take advantage of writers groups and conferences. If you arrive early to the meeting or hang out to talk at the end of them, you can usually find someone willing and interested in taking a look at your work. You can also find out who else might be open to forming a critique group.
2.) Be open to critiquing for others, even when you have nothing of your own to share. One day you will want the favor returned. You will learn as much from what other writers do right and what they do wrong as you will from your own critiqued pieces.
3.) Be willing to try multiple critique groups. It’s not a competition; you’re not cheating on anyone. Try both face-to-face group and online critique groups (become comfortable with the technology if you are not already – more publishers are taking electronic submissions only). This is also the best chance you have of finding the “perfect” critique partners for you.
4.) Be willing to edit for mixed genres. Remember, the more eyes and views you can get, the better chance you have of completing a best seller. Besides, in the future you/other group members will inevitably switch goals or change schedules. The more critique partner options you have, the less time you will spend looking for help under a deadline.
5.) Share what you learn and provide tips and encouragement when you critique for someone else. Writer’s value honesty and information.
Remember it’s important to find others to review your work. Family and friends, while more readily available, are not necessarily the best help. While it’s most definitely a good idea to get their opinions (assuming you have not already driven them crazy with your continuous “read this” plea) it’s best to get unbiased critiques from other writers who understand your craft.