Join a Critique Group
Critique groups are essential for creative writers. Every writer should join one. Those who are just starting out and looking to hone their skills should consider joining multiple critique groups.
What are a critique groups?
In a critique group, writers gather on a regular basis to review each others work and provide feedback on grammar, punctuation, writing style and more.
Critique group exist all over the world. If you live in a metropolitan area, there will certainly be at least several who meet in your vicinity. If not, there are groups that meet in the virtual world.
Why critique groups are essential
For new writers, getting good feedback is a fundamental for improving your skills. Even for seasoned writers, getting a frank appraisal from peers can keep your writing sharp. After all, it’s easy for sub-optimal writing habits to creep in.
You may be thinking that you don’t need a critique group because you get all the feedback you need from your friends and family. Let me dispel that fantasy with a story from my first critique session.
After I finished several chapters in my first novel, I wanted to get some feedback. I thought my work was good; but I knew it could be improved. So I circulated portions to a small group of friends, asking for feedback. They all raved, told me my stuff was great, and begged for more.
Did I mention, I have great friends?
Later, I’d find typos, sentences with missing words, and other obvious errors. No one even mentioned them! So, while my friends boosted my ego, they didn’t help me improve my work.
When I mentioned this phenomenon to by brother (also a novelist), he recommended I join a critique group.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Writers share their work with other writers, who review and critique it. Some critique groups meet face-to-face. Other groups share their work via the ‘net, but never meet.”
I immediately googled critique groups in Indianapolis, my home town. Sure enough, there was one that met on Saturday mornings at the downtown library. I signed up to attend their next session.
At the meeting, I met a half-dozen experienced writers who were all way smarter than me. They openly welcomed me. I liked the way they operated, especially the open and honest manner they offered and received criticism. At the first meeting, they asked me submit a piece for critique at the next session.
I emailed my opening chapters to the team. All week, I anxiously looked forward to our Saturday session. I was finally going to get some serious feedback!
I hoped to get honest feedback. I craved brutally honest feedback. Even so, I wasn’t prepared. My fellow authors each gave their advise politely; but they didn’t pull any punches.
When my turn in the barrel ended, I smiled and thanked everyone, wearing my best game face. But inside, I felt like a boxer, weak-kneed and dazed by the flurry of blows. I staggered back my corner, hoping no one could see how seriously I’d been injured.
The experience humbled me. It was exactly what I needed – and much more.
Critique groups offer more than feedback
Critique groups offer more than just feedback. Over they years, I have found friends who share common interests and goals. People who care about me and help me to succeed. People to whom I’ve grown attached. I’m in their debt. I work to repay this by helping them and by paying it forward by helping others in the same way.
If you are serious about improving your skills as a writer and as a storyteller, then you need to belong to one or more support groups.
If you’ve never belonged to one. Take a moment and find one now.
If you belong to a critique group you like, please tell us about it in the comments below.