Posted by: penpatience | June 1, 2017

WRITERS’ CRITIQUE GROUPS – ARE YOU FAN OR FOE?

WRITERS WORDS: “Writing is like a sport, it’s like athletics. If you don’t practice, you don’t get any better.” –Rick Riordan

 

 

JUNE 2017 MONTHLY MUSING

WRITERS’ CRITIQUE GROUPS – ARE YOU A FAN OR A FOE?

I’m a Fan. I believe writers benefit from participation in personal and online critique groups. Writing is mostly a solitary pursuit. Sitting in front of computer screens, researching online and in local libraries, writing on endless sheets of paper is isolating and getting together with fellow writers on a regular basis keeps writers from becoming nerdy hermits. Critique groups provide opportunities for writers to read and receive assessment on their writing but also listen to and offer comments on other writers’ work within the group.

Everyone in a Critique Group is a Writer.  The group should be respectful, non-judgmental and kind to provide a supportive and creative atmosphere. All levels of writers from novice to experienced and published writers are welcome in most groups. Group guidelines vary by group but, generally groups have established scheduled times and meeting places, identify the acceptable and unacceptable genres, and often limit the number of participants to allow for ample time for everyone’s participation. During the meetings, many eyes and ears are critiquing the writing (not the writer 🙂  recommending edits, changes and “what if’s” and allow additional chat time to share information on contests, writer sites/blogs, publishing, craft and writer resources.

Naysayers or foes of Writer Critique Groups might point out a few issues that make the experience less than favorable. For instance, time constraints—too many writers with too little time for individual participation and constructive feedback.

An Example: Two years ago, I attended a Writer’s Group while visiting in Southeast Florida. The Group was scheduled for Wednesday evening from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. I arrived at 6:50 P.M. only to see over fifty people seated around a very large table with other seats scattered peripherally around the room already filled. I sat down in an empty seat holding a short story recently published. Unfortunately, the Group Leader spent over 30 minutes speaking on  Adverb Usage leaving only 1 ½ hours for writer participation. Guidelines were 5 critiques only for each writer via hands raised with no rebuttal by the writer (time constraints). By 8:45 P.M. there were many writers that didn’t have an opportunity to read. Unfortunately, with no genre restrictions, the last writer read a time-consuming scientific non-fiction paper that was lengthy and difficult to understand outside the scientific community, definitely not appropriate for the group. I discreetly left the room at 9:10 P.M. noting this particular group was not for me.

Additionally, feedback should communicate effective critique. It’s not an effective critique to say “I liked it.” Be specific. What did you like or dislike about the writing? Did the writing hold your attention? Did the tension escalate? Was there conflict the story seeks to resolve? Does the dialogue sound natural?   And in fairness to group members, make sure you come prepared with a piece of your own writing to read and a pen and pad for note taking.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE:

Critique VS Criticism:  = Assessment VS. Disapproval = Evaluation VS. Censure = Comment VS. Disparagement = Review versus Judgment.

Hopefully, you’ve already located a group in your community. If not, check out your local libraries or community Writers’ Associations for in-person groups. For online support groups, you might find the following sites helpful: http://www.wattpad.com, http://www.writerschatroom.com, http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com, http://www.critique.com, http://www.mywritercircle.com,  www.ladieswhocritique.com, http://www.writerscafe.org.

 

Tell me!  What has been your experience with Writer Critique Groups?

I want to know! Are you Fan or Foe?

 

 

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Responses

  1. Great post. I’m a fan of writer’s groups for the very reasons you mention BUT I also think it can be tough to find the right group. The other writers in the group should be at least your skill level or a tad higher, and the rules on genre should be clear. In an in-person forum like the one you attended in FL, I think there needs to be a limit as to how many people are in attendance at one time, otherwise most of the writers don’t get their turn. In a group like that, I think they should have split off into smaller groups that then did the critiques. I’m fortunate in that I have my writing sisters, who are very good at critiquing. Each has her own strengths, so we balance each other out. It might take a few tries to find the right group, so even if the first one doesn’t feel right, there may be another that fits well.

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  2. Julie, thank you for your comments. I agree with you. I’ve read your blog and know how important your writing sisters have improved one another’s writings.
    And it’s okay to belong to more than one group. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
    Happy Writing.
    Frances

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  3. Frances – great column, as always. I like critique groups, and the only ones I’ve experienced are the Wednesday afternoon group and the three-week memoir writing workshop, although the latter was more basic and instructional. And that’s a lovely picture of you! Pat

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  4. Pat, thank you. I truly appreciate your comments. and Yes, it’s great to participate in the writers’ groups. Frances

    Like


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