Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Good Things You Can Get from Critique Groups

Last week, I posted some negatives about critique groups. But in the interests of fairness, I want to talk this week about some of the positive things a critique group can do for you.

This is how I feel after
a great critique session!
Of course, it probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway:  The better the group of people you're working with, the better the experience will be for you. It's not just a matter of having strong writers in the group. What you need are people who can be both honest and diplomatic, who have your best interests at heart, who are open to receiving from you as well as giving to you, and who love the craft of writing and their potential readers enough to be humble in the face of critical feedback. A group like that is a blessing from the heavens, and when you find one, hold onto it, because not all groups are created equal.

But assuming you have a good, solid group of caring, committed, honest, dedicated writers to work with, you'll get some very good advice:

  1. They'll tell you what they love about your work. This is important because we can get blind to what is actually working in our writing. We can edit to death if we're not careful. Good readers will tell you what NOT to fix. Take that advice seriously.
  2. They will kick their own jealousy (if they have any) to the curb. I've had someone tell me they were jealous of my work. But this person was so kind about it and so honest that it was easy to forgive, especially when she kindly said I should get back to what works in my own fiction, because she kind of wanted to be jealous some more. We all appreciate, admire, and even envy others for doing certain things well. But the mark of a mature person is to be able to recognize our envy and put it aside.
  3. They'll tell you what isn't working. This is the number one reason to belong to a good critique group, or at least to have some strong, honest readers. That passage we think is brilliant...well, it may not be that brilliant after all. It might be confusing. It might be overwritten. A good reader, a good critiquer, will tell you how much they love you...and then they'll tell you to fix your crap anyway. Because they love you.
  4. They'll listen to what you need and see how they can meet that need. Sometimes we know what we need, don't we? We need to know if the fight scene is easy to follow. We need to know if the character's motivation seems believable. We need to figure out where to go next with the story. A good critique group is capable of taking your questions and then answering them in ways that help you write better and move forward, instead of confusing you, discouraging you, or keeping you blocked.
  5. They'll inspire you to keep writing. We all get discouraged at times. The creative process has ups and downs. But a good critique group knows that, and they will help you through it. They'll remind you in the down times that you are a good writer. When you want to throw away everything you've ever created, they'll say, "Well, why don't you just hold onto it? Maybe you'll be able to use it again someday." In other words, when you feel a little insane about it all, they'll remind you that you are, in fact, very sane and you should just take a deep breath and relax.
And your critique group is how you make it, too!
Now, you share:  What other good things has your critique group done for you?

Next week, I'll share a list of tips...top rules of writing...that one of my critique groups shared with each other. Until next time, happy writing!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

4 comments:

  1. The outside perspective is painful...but constructive perspective (if you have a good group) is invaluable in finding and improving your strengths and flaws.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely! It's got to be constructive feedback. But it's so helpful when you have someone who can do that for you.

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  2. Hello, you Chipper Muse, you. How are you? It's been way too long! Thanks for posting this. I have never actually been involved with a critique group. I don't know why exactly. It just was something that never happened. I suppose it's never too late, huh?
    I hope things are well with you and yours, my friend. Are you enjoying what's left of the summer? I like fall and winter better, so I can't wait for them to get here. It gets over one hundred degrees here and I'm not a big fan of sweating! *laughs* So, naturally you'll find me hiding in the air conditioning.
    Take care!

    -Jimmy

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    1. No, it's never too late! And yes, things are good. :)

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