Critique groups can be the bomb-diggity. Slang aside, a great critique group can accelerate a writer’s growth in their craft.
And of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a critique group can be an immense time suck with very little return.
Even worse, it can steal a writer’s joy and shake their confidence. Today’s Teaching Corner is going to focus on how to get the most oomph out of a critique group.
What Is a Critique Group?
A critique group is a group of writers who agree to meet on a consistent basis in order to exchange feedback on each other’s writing.
Find a Critique Group When . . .
- You want to be with your people. Those people who “get” what it’s like to have words living inside you that must be written down. Revised. Shared.
- You want to grow as a writer. You’re ready to learn and practice new skills.
- You are ready for honest feedback, even when it stings. You can give yourself space and time to feel the disappointment, and then you can review the feedback with some objectivity.
- You have time to share your own expertise and feedback to partners.
- You enjoy supporting other writers.
Where to Find a Critique Group
The usual places to look for an established group:
- The library
- A local writing organization
- Ask a friend who writes
Not so usual places to look:
- A local coworking space
- A local coffee shop
- Meetup.com “Meetup is a service used to organize online groups that host in-person events for people with similar interests.”
- Online: social media groups, like Nextdoor and Facebook, and Google
How to Get the Most Out of a Critique Group
- Be prepared when it’s your turn to share material.
- Have the words written. Print the files or share electronically by the deadline.
- Ask specific questions to garner the feedback you want/need.
- Be open. Getting feedback, especially critical feedback, doesn’t always feel great, but try not to be defensive.
- If you’re up to it, ask the group to help you workshop the trouble spot.
- If you’re not, say thank you and give yourself time to marinate on the problem.
- Remember that you don’t have to share your entire manuscript, or even your current WIP (work in progress). Sometimes, especially in the early days of a draft, this will just bog you down. Or you’ll get stuck in the revision phase forever. Rather than writing and then revising, you’ll feel like you have to revise as you go, which is a fast way to kill a story.
- The point of a critique group is to grow you as a writer. You can get the same effect, and practice new techniques, with a short story or an essay.
- Share feedback that is both honest and kind. Honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. Practice offering feedback from a place of positivity. “I like the way you wrote ________. I’d love to see you include more _________. Here’s an idea for how to do that . . . .”
- Don’t be the strongest writer in the group. If you want to learn, then that’s hard to do if you’re the person everyone looks to for guidance as the resident expert. You want to be part of a group where you can also be challenged. You may start with a group and later outgrow it. That’s okay.