Critique Groups

Something I have not talked about yet is the value of critique groups.

First off, it is important to know what a critique group is, or even more importantly, what it is not. It is not a group of your friends telling you what a good writer you are. It is also not a firing squad for writers, unless that is what the writer really needs. A critique group is a collection of fellow writers, perhaps even editors, who all submit material for review from the whole group. It is best if the people in the group are not well acquainted so they will feel more free to give honest opinions. Needless to say, it is not for the faint of heart. Before you go to such a group, make sure you are prepared emotionally to receive honest opinions of your work, even if those opinions are negative. And some will be.

Finding critique groups is not that difficult. Usually a simple Google search of something like “Denver critique groups” will do the trick. If you live someplace rural, or are not able to travel about easily for one reason or another, you may want to consider on-line critique groups. Rather than face-to-face, they conduct everything via email. Whichever way you go the result is about the same.

One of the best parts of critique groups is getting the feedback you need to make your writing better. But there are a few downsides. If your group is not genre-specific, and most are not, there are likely members of the group who simply do not like the genre you are writing. If they are polite, they will refrain from making comments unless they are more general about the writing style than what they dislike about the story being told. But sometimes you might find those who are not so polite. Each Critique Group should have a moderator and that is the person to handle those kind of situations. But to some extent, the writer must consider source of the criticism, and judge its value accordingly.

Another downside can come from being in the same group for a long period. You get used to one another, maybe even start socializing outside of the group. This can lead to less-than-honest appraisals. It is human nature to want to accommodate our friends. The first group I belonged to started out as a group of friends who all had writing as common attributes. I was never sure of the honesty the opinions I was getting, so I sought other groups for this purpose. As I suspected, the group of friends were mostly honest, but sugar-coated their honesty in the name of friendship.

The most important thing to get from a Crtique Group is what you need to make you a better writer. I find their comments invaluable and any new novels I write will have this sort of input during the writing process. It is one step of several to ensure my manuscript is the best it can be before submitting it to a publisher or agent. Also, if the work is well critiqued before publication, it is more likely to get good reviews during and after its release.


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