Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Key To A Good Critique Group

It isn't enough to find just any critique group. To really learn and grow as a writer you have to find the right critique group. Figuring out exactly what that is can sometimes be as difficult as finding it. A good critique group is well balanced, and I don't mean genre. You can belong to a group that all write different genres and it can be the perfect group. I know because I belong to such a group.

The balance is in the way everyone critiques. You don't want to belong to a group that sits around and only tells each other how wonderful their writing is unless all you need is affirmation and a pat on the back. It is nice to have that pat on the back now and then but there is little to nothing you'll learn from a group like that because chances are high that they aren't being honest.

Honesty is the key to a good critique group. However, that key should be handled carefully instead of wielded like a battle-ax. The members of the group should be able to affectively communicate what didn't work for them in your manuscript and why. However, this should be done with a bit of grace. We don't want a lovefest but we don't want a slaughter either. Balance makes the key work. The group should say what they liked and what they didn't. After a session you should feel like you'll be able to improve your work with their feedback. If not, then the group may not be right for you.

Be open minded, choose wisely, and have fun. Remember, you're there to learn and improve and hopefully help them do the same. Check out my good friend Lisa's post on When To Take Advice. Here at the Critique Sister's Corner we'll be sharing our methods with you as well as critiques on query letters, first lines, first paragraphs and all kinds of other things. Thank you for joining us. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.



  1. I have found such a group! Actually I didn't FIND it the SCBWI set it up for me, so I have to thank the organizers. They have done wonderful things for me and my writing. From their honesty to motivation to references on my resume, I have gleaned so much. Looks like you guys have it made as well!

  2. Heather, you couldn't have said it better. I also like the ability to have a group that will allow open discussion when critiqued. Discussion is the only way to communicate with clarity. Feelings shouldn't be hurt either way. Think about our discussion on the "east side." I thought you were telling, not showing. But you weren't. I heard the "East" side... like the other side of town. But you were reading the east side out the window. If I had just said, "I think you're telling not showing," and you said, "Thank you," we wouldn't have communicated. Two way discussions are great.

    I'm wondering if other readers have examples from their groups.

    And yes... I'm all for the fun, too.
    Thanks for a great post.

  3. So true, Heather. If I didn't have great critiques from my Critique Sisters, I'd never polish my writing to where I want it to be. Finding people you trust and whose opinions you value, and opening yourself up to hear what they say; then giving back in equal measure with care and professionalism is what it's all about. Thanks for a great post.

  4. Well said, Heather! I've been in several critique groups in my life, and the most effective ones follow the guidelines you outlined above. I also think it's critical for all members of the group to be actively writing. I've seen some groups turn into whining sessions about how the members never have time to write. That can be less-than-inspiring!


  5. I agree with you. I have a great critique group. They are my friends and my toughest critics. My girls will tell me if I have spinach on my teeth because they are just as invested as I am. Good post. I'll be back.

    Thanks for looking at my site as well. I've been having problems with my weebly and have switched to blogspot. So, if you're ever bored, stop by. :)

  6. Phyllis, that's great! I've heard good things about the SCBWI. I love how they help writers!

    Karlene, you make an excellent point! A successful group is all about open communication. We're so lucky to have that. :)

    Linda, exactly! Well said. I could have shortened my post to what you just said. LOL!

  7. Portia, you make a great point. If all members aren't actively writing then it can spiral into unproductivity.

    Diana, it makes me smile to hear that others have a great crit group too! We'll definitely stop by your blog. Thanks for visiting!

    L.J., thank you!

  8. Great advice.

    It is so true a good critique group can be a wonderful thing.


  9. Thank you Michael. It really is. In this tough industry it's so important that we connect with people who will not only support us, but be honest with us!