A critique group for writers is a luxury I have missed. Since the pandemic, my group has not met for over six months, and I miss them all. I have been an active member of the Lesser North Texas Writers’ Group for a little over nine years. My experience with them has exponentially improved my writing skills and helped me to see my work through other’s eyes. I have completed reading all three of my novels, and they have been very helpful in honing my voice.
Picking the Right Group – This is critical to your success as a writer. You want a group that will nurture while at the same time doesn’t coddle you. This is a delicate balance as you have to be honest yet not hurtful.
Develop a Thick Skin – Here is the hardest part. Accept negative criticism with grace. In our group we recommend a hard copy be provided so that marks for grammar and comments can be given. Time permitting each person in the group will give a verbal summary of their thoughts. Sometimes the reaction of the group may not be what you’re expecting, but remember it is representative of another reader’s thoughts which is the exact reason you write–for others to read. Now maybe you feel that those people are not your target audience, but the critique is still valid. The challenge is to let their comments simmer. Take some time away from the chapter you wrote and then look at it with new eyes. Most times you will find the critique has value.
Take What You Want – This is a case where you have a variety of reviewers which gives you a range of potential readers. You can determine who from the group is not your target audience. You can choose to prioritize other reviewers remarks before theirs. Also remember that with hard copies you can always get grammatical or typographical suggestions. Even if someone is not your target audience, they can spot problems and logical disconnects. Which means: everyone’s critique has value.
Don’t Change Just Cause Someone Says So– Sometimes a writer can get confused with all the suggestions from their critique group. Take all of it and think about it. Don’t believe you must update your chapter to appease all the reviews. Remember your target audience. Remember that you are the god of your story. And as god, you can decide whether to adjust your writing to fit things together as you believe.
Karma: Help Others While Helping Yourself – At times, I will read something and think, “I can write better than this”. But most others times, I realize that OMG there’s so much work I have to do with my craft. I can’t stop. I have to keep pushing forward. Critique groups help you mature quicker as a writer . You can’t write in a vacuum.
Be Polite and Helpful – Remember to critique but not bash your fellow critique member. If time is tight, speak to the bigger things and mark the little ones like: Grammar, POV, Tense, Passive Voice, Echos, etc.
Writing Must be a Verb First Before it can Ever be a Noun – No one can critique a blank sheet of paper. You have to get it out of your head and onto the page.