Critequing the Critueqe Group

IMG_20130602_224212While strolling through my RSS feed I came a cross this article on Killzone.

Getting pecked to death:Are critique groups worth it?

I had the joy and pleasure of being part of an excellent critique group while I was living in Connecticut. They name of the group was Pentimentos and we met every other Wednesday night. The format was simply hand in something for critique one meeting and get it back the next. I was just at the point where I was ready to show my work to others but at the same time I certainly gave them plenty of food to chew on. I took my licks and gave them as well. This back and forth helped me develop as a writer in so many ways I probably would not be where I am were it not for this group.

Writing is a lot like riding a bike. You can read about it, have it described to you, but until you put your feet on the pedals and kiss the pavement once or twice you will never learn how to ride a bike. This is where a good critique group is vital to your development as a writer. By giving and receiving critiques you will develop an eye for what works and what makes the reader ask, “what did you mean by this?” Think of the critique group as your laboratory to test and see what works with different readers.

Now you may ask, what about the subjective part? What about the kiss of the muse that either comes or it doesn’t? You quickly learn that not all stories are created equal and not all writers consistently hit a high mark. It is just a part of life. The critique group is the perfect environment to learn this lesson. When the group is working its best you will hear what works and what you might do to fix what doesn’t. The more you participate the sooner you begin recognizing what works and doesn’t work as you are writing it.

The other side of the critique group is not so rosy. If you spend any amount of time in the same group you will get to see different members coming and going, changing the group dynamic along with them. I have had the displeasure of sitting next to or across from some very petty people and some very close minded people. The good news is a healthy group can weather their presence and you still learn what not to do. But be mindful if at any time you find yourself asking why you put up with these people maybe it is time to find another group. Never be afraid to recognize when something isn’t working. Remember you are doing this because you love it and there are plenty of critique groups out there.

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One thought on “Critequing the Critueqe Group

  1. Our critique group has been going strong for about four years now and in case it is useful for other people, I’ll outline what we do and how we’ve changed it over the years to get it in a way that works best for us as a group. There are all sorts of ways to run a group, depending on many different factors including whether you have other opportunities to socialise and talk about writing. We do, which means that we can focus on critiquing at these meetings. Some people prefer to run them more as we used to (bringing manuscripts on the day; open to anyone; anyone, including the author, can chip in) and others choose to focus on one person’s writing each session. Different styles work for different groups.

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