Thursday, October 27, 2016

Facing The Dreaded Critique Group, Part 2

by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

OK. You made the plunge and decided to join a critique group.

What should you expect?

One is respect for each of us as a person and as a group. Be on time at the beginning and at the end. Respect each other as people and as colleagues striving to be the best we can be. Treat each other as the professional writers we are.

In the critique itself, we should expect insights and ideas into our writing, particularly if there’s an aspect of the craft or the story we’re struggling with.

We want suggestions for help, not pronouncements from on high that their way is the only way to do it. Remember, as Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree on what they are.”

There will be members of the group who will be
stronger in some areas than others.
There will be members of the group who will be stronger in some areas than others. Some will be able to point out plot problems. Others will help us see where dialogue can be snappier or characterization stronger. We need to draw on those strengths to improve our own writing. At the same time we all need to keep working on developing our craft and not depend on others to rescue us. A good critique can help us do that.

Ideally, one critiquer should not dominate the discussion. Many times, this person has their own agenda and looking to self-promote. This can stifle the growth of the group and the individuals.

On the other hand, one submitter should not dominate all the critique time either. My experience is that person is one who is least likely to receive criticism well. They can become defensive and argumentative and drain the energy of the group.

A successful group is one that is we focused. One where the members support and encourage and challenge each other to grow as writers.

What’s the best critique group experience you’ve had?


Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. 

He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. 

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. 

Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.


  1. I just joined a critique group and our first meeting will be next month. We're all new at this, so I will be sharing your post with the group. Thanks for the advice.

  2. Hi Pat,
    I'm glad you found this post helpful. I pray you new group is successful. If you have any questions about critique groups, please email me at I'd really like to hear how your group goes.

  3. Thanks, Henry. I thank God for my critique groups. As you mentioned, the members have different strengths that I draw on to make me a better writer. While I don't allow them to change my voice, I do rely on them to strengthen the areas where I'm weak. They are truly iron sharpening iron. I've learned invaluable lessons from my critique groups. And this fact motivates me to be the best I can be at critiquing their work for their sake. My critique groups are a part of my family.