Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Value of a Critique Group And/Or Writing Partner

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I field a lot of questions about the value of having a critique group and/or partner. There are as many answers as there are writers. But there are very few who are able to produce publishable writing in a vacuum.

For me personally, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer if wasn’t for the groups who have nurtured me along the way.

Although we tend to think of writing as a primarily solitary pursuit, writing for publication is an endeavor built on forging relationships. And those relationships can ultimately determine our 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 our writer’s 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? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Find a valuable critique partner and/or Writers group with these tips - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. Great post. Thank you. I have been praying for a critique group or partner.

    1. Cherrilynn, persevere! It's worth the wait. Blessings, E

  2. I agree completely. Critique groups are essential for my growth as a writer. My first submission went through my critique group more than once before I hit "Send." The piece was accepted. I owe my Word Weavers a huge debt of gratitude for all they've done for me. Conversely, I think I've contributed to the group's growth by sharing my comments. I rarely submit without their input. If not the group, I have friends I can send the piece to for review. Iron does sharpen iron.

    1. Sharron, Word Weavers is a great organization! Blessings, E

  3. My critique partners and I have been together for 12 years. We're close friends they're the ones I call for prayer and those I pray for. I trust them completely. We've learned to critique in each others' voices and I wouldn't think of turning my writing in to my editor without them.

    1. Ane, I feel the same about my group! Blessings, E

  4. I coach several writing groups with writers in various stages on their journeys.
    But I have six critique partners who are special to me because they are the people who help me to grow as a writer and a person. Like Ane, we've been together for years and have formed bonds of friendship and trust that cannot be broken. We're life partners as much as we are critique partners.

    1. What's your take on critique partners on-line? I've heard of groups that "meet" online but I wonder how/whether that'd be beneficial.

    2. Henry, I love that, "life partners as much as we are critique partners." Thanks for sharing! Blessings, E

    3. Ellen, I think an online group can be just as beneficial. It's all in the chemistry. Blessings, E

  5. I love my critique group! They balance kindness with honesty, so I leave feeling encouraged and with beneficial comments for improvement. Hearing critiques on their work is just as helpful because I learn from their strengths and mistakes. It's a win-win.