Why bother to join a critique group? Why not ask your best friend, your husband, and if you are very courageous, your kids. Afterall, these are the people who love you and want the best for you. Why wouldn’t they make the best readers, the best critique partners?
It is because they love you, they become blind to your foibles, follies, flaws and faults. They would never hurt your feelings telling you the opening is a yawn, stop talking so much and get to the point.
It doesn’t matter what time in your life you make the decision that the writer’s life is what you want. Once you have stepped out of the closet into daylight, you begin the process of learning about yourself and your work.
For most of us, that first novel may not hit the top ten of the best seller’s list, but may instead sit on a shelf never to be sanctified between the covers.
Critique groups and partners come in a variety of styles and types and can be found in your hometown, a few miles down the interstate or in cyber space. Wherever they are, they are a vital tool for both unpublished and veteran authors.
For years I was reluctant to do anything with what sat at the back of the bookcase, covered in dust and buried in old newspapers and magazines. Then I decided to take myself and one story out into the light of day and joined a critique group in a local library. (Libraries, by the way are a great resource and the first place to look for a critique group in your city, town or burb.)
During the first two years I visited other groups. Don’t be shy or afraid to experiment with new groups. If you have never been a “joiner” this is a good time to start and the best way to hone your craft.
Soon I will embark on yet another journey … I will begin critique training with my new group at the RWA-Women’s Fiction chapter. I will learn with other aspiring authors, the delicate balance needed to critique others and use their critique to improve my work.
The special skills needed to be a good critique partner are patience, a good ear and knowing how to create the “sandwich.” Provide positive feedback before and after and use the middle to help another writer zero in on what they need to improve their writing skills. Gladly, we do not need to possess the discerning eye of an editor, as this writer spells phonetically.
I would love to find a partner who can enjoy and relate to how and what I write. I hope I find hers equally intriguing, entertaining and enjoyable. I look forward to exploring sub-genre groups I have yet to read.
Why do we need a critique group? To give us the support we need as we write and rewrite the best work we can produce.
And of course, to teach us to pay it forward and give the same support to others.
To each his own
Photograph by JenG