Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Do I REALLY Need a Craft or Critique Group?

Only if you want your writing to improve!

Writing for publication is an endeavor built on forging relationships. And those relationships can ultimately determine your success or failure in the writing industry. Here’s a list of those relationships.
  • Between you and other writers.
  • Between you and the reader.
  • Between the reader and the subject or characters.
  • Between you and the editor.
  • Between you and your agent.

I listed the relationship between writers first, because surprisingly, it’s often the most vital in your writing life. The actual act of putting words on paper is a solitary act and because of that it’s easy to lose perspective. Writing in a vacuum can give us a false sense of whether or not we’re effective in our endeavor. We either wind up thinking we’re a genius or sink into the depths of despair because we can’t string two coherent sentences together. Rarely is either perspective accurate.

We need others in our profession to give us feedback, keep us grounded and provide encouragement. You may be tempted, like I was at first, to insert friends and family into this role. Unless they’re also writers this dynamic just doesn’t work. They’ll unwittingly encourage you when you need a swift kick in the pants and administer the kick in the pants when you need encouragement.

That’s where a writers group, critique group or critique partner will help. But you have to be careful—some critique and writers groups can be toxic. I’ve visited some where the purpose appears to be to build up the one delivering the critique by tearing down the hapless author. You want to avoid these groups at all cost.

Here’s a list of what to look for in a group or a partner:
  • An encouraging atmosphere—not all sweetness and light—nobody improves on false compliments. But I’ve almost never found a manuscript that didn’t have some redeeming quality.
  • A mutually beneficial relationship. You should both bring something valuable if it’s a partnership—you may excel at writing dialogue and your partner is a whiz at description.
  • A hunger to improve. If it’s a group there should be a movement toward growth in the majority of members. Even if you’re all beginners, if you’re all reading writing books and attending classes you’ll be able to grow and learn together.
  • A timekeeper. If someone’s not willing to keep track of the time not everyone will get a chance to be critiqued. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!

So now here’s your chance—what experiences have you had with writing groups and partnerships?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. I've had both good and bad experiences with writing groups and partnerships. No surprise there -- it involves people, and people (me included) aren't perfect. But, even with the challenges and disappointments, I have grown so much as a writer through my involvement with groups and partnerships, I plan on being involved with them in the future.
    I always suggest a trial period of 6-8 weeks to see if the group is a fit. After that, if someone wants to bow it, then there's no harm, no foul. The group (or partnership) just wasn't the right one for them.

  2. I have also had both good and bad experience with critique groups. Does anyone have suggestions on how to go about finding a group?

  3. I love the group I got into. Found it via Writer's Digest magazine. It is called Critique Circle and it is pretty neat. You critique three stories for which you get points. Then you submit one and it cost you three points. Longer stories can get you more points, but they recommend you keep it under 5000 words. How much you critiques is up to you. They have it broken down into genres after you finish your three critiques and your first submission. I have had good critiques and some tough ones, which I probably deserved for just putting something up without really even double checking it before I submitted. It is definitely a help and you will make some writing friends if you do it long enough.

  4. My experiences have been good. My first group was mostly sweetness and light, which was good to start out. I'm in 2 other critique groups now, and they're harder but I definitely need that. Besides offering a fresh set of eyes and helping with mechanics, they're also helping me hone my voice and figure out what areas to pursue. Once I get those things nailed down, I'm sure they'll help me broaden my horizons!

  5. I think a good critique partner and/or group is vital. I actually had an agent who read my novel tell me last summer, "Enjoyed the story, but you need a good critique group." Well,at the time I sent it to her I had had my novel critiqued by some great folks, including Camy Tang, Yvonne Lehman and Randy Ingermanson's daughter Carolyn. They all gave me great critiques and I added revisions after each critique. However, the agent said I was missing "little things." And, probably those little things were in the revisions that I did. So-o-o, to make a longer story shorter, right now I have three goals with my second novel:

    1) We are hoping to form a chapter of ACFW here in upstate South Carolina which I hope to lead into serious critiquing probably using Jerry B. Jenkins/Wordweaver's critique model and utilizing various contest judging criteria I have collected. (I plan to do a blog on this soon at http://www.CarolinaRomancewithElvaMartin.blogspot.com.)

    2) I hope to have a retired English teacher help do my final read through to catch the "little things." Any volunteers?

    3) I plan to keep up with Edie's blog and several others that share so many good things to strengthen my writing!

  6. I belong to a online critique group with 4 wonderful Christian ladies. I would never leave this close-knit group, but I need to find another one to join. The search hasn't been easy. Any suggestions?

  7. I was part of a writers group for several years. Unfortunately, it closed due to lack of support. Not enough people were serious about publication to make the effort to attend.

    All of my support now comes from friends I've met online. As we've all received contracts, our critique time has shrunk.

    ACFW chapters are too far away from my home. What's an author to do?

  8. Great post, Edie. One of the most amazing things that has happened to my writing life in the past year has been connecting with my craft partner and then the two of us joining up with another pair of CPs. The encouragement and support has been amazing. I recently had to step away from my local writing group simply due to time constraints--and frankly, we were all writing such different material with different career goals that it made it hard to be much help to each other. But I loved the fellowship.

  9. I've missed the last two months with my group, but this post is a good kick to get back in gear and return. My group it wonderful, just too far away. It's a two hour drive, but it's worth every mile to have the support, feedback and friendship.