Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Do I Really Need a Writers Group or a Critique Partner?

by Edie Melson

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. 

The Lonely Vacuum Of Space (JD Hancock) / CC BY 3.0
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. Love this! I belonged to an in-person writers group for about 10 years, and now do on-line critiques with six other writer friends. I love my critique partners for so many reasons - prayer, support, encouragement, slaps upside the head, and insight. And I NEED those extra pairs of eyes - the sentences that sound luscious to me (usually when I'm trying to be deep and poetic) are often the most baffling. I'm thankful my critique partners weed those out for me before my editor has to see them :)

    1. Sarah, I'm the same way. My crit partners keep me grounded when I get carried away! Thanks for sharing, Blessings, E

  2. Great post, Edie! Both writer's groups and critique partners are so important! Writer's groups are places to find connections and learn new things from those in different places on the journey. Both My Book Therapy and American Christian Fiction Writers have taught me so much. And without my critique buddies, I'm quite sure I would never make it out of the slush pile.

    1. Michelle, you are so right! Where would we be without MBT and ACFW! BTW, congrats on being a semi-finalist in the Genesis - Blessings, E

  3. I've been in a writers group for about 4 years and have formed a smaller crit group in the last few months. Having both encourages me to write more often, and write better. My crit partners are supportive and offer good suggestions I'd never otherwise thought of. Thanks guys!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. How does a person go about finding one to join? I don't think there is one in the city I live in.

  6. Can't imagine being without my critique group! Thanks for another great post, Edie!

  7. I agree with all the above advice, but I do think that we sometimes get to a stage where other readers aren't quite as important, and I think that's once we know what we're trying to say. After that, you can start asking specific questions: "I'm trying to establish so-and-so as a father figure; does it read like that?" etc.

  8. I'm a member of a Christian writer's group in Kansas City (HACWN). It has several critique groups that meet on a regular basis, but I live 3-4 hours away. Time and money come into play here. Some of us have been kicking around the idea of an online group, but don't know exactly how to proceed. Any tips, would be appreciated. :)

  9. I've been in a writer's group for about 4 years, and it's an important part of my life, not only in my writing, but for the caring, support, and encouragement we give to each other. As time passes, I see improvement in all of our writing, and we look forward to our meetings. If a person can't find a writer's group, try to start one. Put out the invitation in libraries. I'll bet one could be started in no time.