Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The benefit of critique groups

I don't admit that I know everything - I think I should quote the immortal words of Sergeant Schultz, 'I know nothing, nothing, nothing!' These words would be closer to the truth.
Critique groups - love them or hate them? It's a mixed bag. I think we should all go into critique groups fully aware that you may not fit. It's nothing against you as a person, or as a writer, sometimes the dynamic isn't there or our expectations are a little different.
I belong to a genre specific critique group because of what I write. I find the members are a mixed bag of skills and knowledge and that's great. But beware the dreaded 'critique group voice', sounds dire and it can be. What can happen is that your voice changes to a blending of voices from the various crits from your critique group. Keep that in mind and your 'voice' won't change. No, not your singing voice, although come to think of it mine could do with a little changing, hmmm. I digress. I mean your writer's voice - your own special way of how you put your words together. But voice can be a lot of other things as well.
The benefits of a good critique group can be immeasurable - I’ve learnt to be a better writer. Although my grammar still sucks to the power of 10 and that’s not my critique groups fault - that's mine. I've learnt so much about plot, character, pacing, emotion, pov and the list goes on, I've experienced the truly wonderful writers of RWA and the FF & P Chapter who give, give, give of their time and expertise.
I submit critiques to my critique group and ask them to rip it up and then help me put it back together again. There's nothing personal about it – it’s business and I want to be a better writer. And they've made me a better writer by being able to point out things I can't see because I'm too close to the work.
We share in our triumphs and disappointments. There is always a shoulder to cry on and then a smack over the back of the head when we've wallowed in our pity party long enough. Then there's the hand that reaches out and helps us to get back up and put bum to seat, hands to keyboard and write.


  1. Sandra,

    I agree with you about how important it is not to lose your voice when working with a crit partner. One of the hardest things for me was *recognizing* my own voice - realizing I had one - and holding onto it through an entire draft. I think once you "hear" your voice, it's a lot easier to know when someone else is trying to change it.

    It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to please everyone by making all the changes your crit partners suggest, whether they be about voice or anything else. But the truth is, you will *never* please everyone, so worry about pleasing yourself.


  2. You are so right Alissa. You can't please everyone. I think finding your 'voice' is a big step forward as a writer.
    All the best with your writing.