There are many types of groups that are often helpful to writers. There are writers’ organizations, marketing groups, critique groups, etc.
Today I’m going to talk about critique groups and the ways to set one up. You may find this helpful if you are open to criticism.
First, what does a critique group do? There are several ways critique groups are set up, but essentially in order to really benefit from a critique group, you’ll need to want to give your work to others to read. If you don’t like others reading and commenting on your work, then a critique group might not be right for you.
Before you decide that a critique group is not for you, think about how beneficial it would be to toughen yourself up so you could hear some criticism. After all, you are going to receive some rejection and criticism when you start submitting your work to editors. So, it might be a good idea to use this opportunity to learn to take criticism without falling to pieces.
Another reason to not join a critique group is if you are a writer who doesn’t want anyone giving ideas to your creation. In other words, if you are the type that doesn’t want anyone else taking a bite of your sandwich, a critique group might not be good for you.
If those things don’t bother you, here’s what you might expect from a critique group.
In one form or other you will give your writing to the other members of the group and they will give you theirs. Some groups print out copies of a chapter and give it to the others in the group. Other groups send chapters through the email. I belonged to one group where each writer read the piece aloud to the group and the group discussed possible revisions and suggestions. Those are some of the ways groups operate.
If you are going to participate, it is always a good idea to have some idea of what you want from the group. For example, you might be writing a mystery and wonder if the pace is fast enough or if you are providing a big enough hook at the end of the chapter, etc. You can ask the group to keep an eye out for those specifics as they read.
How to be open to the critique…
When you receive the critique from the group, remember that it will always be your book. You do not need to implement every suggestion that they give you. However, do not be defensive. It makes it awkward for you and for them if you are defensive about each area they suggest for change. Therefore, I suggest that you approach the critique with the mindset that they are offering their best advice to help you. After the meeting, you can decide whether or not to take the advice.
How to be a good critique group member…
When reading the submission by another in the group, approach the task in a helpful manner. Don’t show off or try to put the person down. Offer suggestions that you feel will be helpful to them. If they disagree with you, offer your rationale but don’t argue with them. After all, it is their book and they get to make the final decision about what goes into it. Also, give them positive feedback as well as negative. It will help them be able to hear what you’re saying.
Groups are not always for everyone. If you are unsure whether a critique group is for you, give one a try. If you hate it, move on. You never know, you just might like it and it might help you move to the next level in your writing.