One of the best decisions I ever made, and probably the most impactful on my writing career, was to join a critique group. From my first one, formed years ago with coworkers and friends, to my current group, I have found the encouragement and feedback from other writers invaluable.
How We Met –
We are all members of SCBWI and found each other through the website. (Check your region and look for a critique group coordinator.) A few months after I signed up as someone looking for a group, I received an email that one was forming near me. I went to the first meeting and voila!
Led by the wonderful Debbie D’Aurelio, we meet the first and third Wednesday of each month. If you are looking for a group but don’t live near other writers, don’t worry. There are plenty of successful groups that never actually “meet” at all, other than online.
How We Meet –
When we have something to share, we typically bring printed out pages for everyone to read. The writer reads his/her work, then we spend about ten minutes giving feedback. Debbie keeps us all on track so that everyone has ample time to be heard.
I LOVE being a part of a critique group. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s how some of the other members feel–
The most obvious reason to be in a critique group is to get critiqued. Then you can revise, revise and revise until your manuscript is perfect and ready to start a bidding war between all of the major publishing houses. (It’s okay to dream.)
Getting honest feedback, from people not related to you, is critical to success as a writer. I feel like the critique process has helped my craftsmanship as much as conferences and clinics.
However, I have received something even more valuable from participating in a critique group. I’ve received “Fox Hole” support. We’re all in the same battle to reach the front lines of publishing. We know what it means when we get a form rejection or an editor passes on a project or how empty we feel when our email inbox is empty after a batch of queries has gone out. And we know what it means when we get five requests for fulls or our manuscript went to acquisition or a contract is on its way.
My husband and daughters have always given me the appropriate hug for each disappointment or pats on the back for small wins. I know they care, but I also know they don’t really understand why I’m in the depths of gloom or why I’m about to burst with excitement. But my writer friends know. They’re in the trenches with me. Whatever just happened to me has probably happened to them. That sharing of experiences is just as important as the sharing of critiques.
I’m thankful that I get to share a foxhole with people I respect and enjoy.
Since writing is a solitary activity, writers need a place where they can share, vent, and laugh. And they need a place where they can get some honest feedback – (a safe place, but not a therapy room).
Being part of a good critique group will make your writing stronger. You might not always agree with the feedback because only you can write your story, but the writer needs to hear from readers before the manuscript is ready to submit.
I find being a member of a writing/critique group to be vital to my success. Having other writers to give me honest feedback is wonderful, but I find the most value when I am struggling or doubting myself. Writing can be a very lonely craft and having people I trust in my corner has made a huge difference.
As writers, we live in our heads. It can be hard to change course in our WIP. New eyes bring new possibilities. Seek out writers who don’t think like you do.
I like having friends who are writers. Writing is a lonely profession and it’s nice to have the support of your compatriots who are fighting the same fight. Also, being in a critique group gives me a deadline, so even if I’m scrambling the night before, or the morning of, to get words down, I’m getting it done.
As you can see, we all find being a part of a critique group helpful AND fun. Find one and get writing!
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