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I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the benefits of belonging to a critique group. Though it took me some time, I ultimately had the good fortune to land amongst a group of other writers who helped me to become a much better one myself. But I’ve also heard plenty of horror stories. So, what are some ways to ensure you’re in a group that works for you? In my own experience, I found there are some key factors to consider.
Take your time to find the right group or partner. Go to as many meetings and conferences as feasible. Join online groups. Get out there and talk to as many people who write as you can. You don’t necessarily have to find others in your genre. My critique group encompasses everything from women’s fiction to historical to paranormal. I firmly believe that this leads to insights and ideas we wouldn’t otherwise discover. So, go on a recruiting mission of sorts. It’s worth your while to make the effort to search for the right mix of contributors. Hopefully, you’ll be working with them for years to come.
Once established, find the method that works for your group. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to evaluating each other’s material. But critique groups can vary as widely as authors themselves. I know some meet primarily to brainstorm together. Others read their pages out loud followed by a feedback session. Personally, I would not be comfortable with that particular approach. We send out in advance what we’ve written and go over it at our next get-together. Spend some time with your partners to figure out the way(s) that will best meet the needs of each of you.
All members must be mindful of their presentation when critiquing. An inherent danger is to tamper with one another’s voice. No one wants that to happen. Find the right balance of constructive feedback and reverence. Like any relationship, all parties must be feel validated and appreciated in order for the dynamic to be a successful one. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: be respectful when sharing your opinion. Make sure to point out what works as well as the areas you feel could use some improvement.
Whether you’re fortunate enough to be in the same geographic area and can physically meet, or even if you’re gathering online, try to set a regular time. This will ensure a steady flow of progress and hopefully keep everyone on track with their current WIP. As with any other meeting, be conscious of the time. Though we don’t have an official agenda at our critiques, we know we’re going to spend several minutes chatting. We’ve all known each other for a while now and we like to take the time to catch up. We plan for it and schedule accordingly. Once we begin, we try to keep tangents to a minimum. We don’t always succeed. Writers have a tendency to ramble, after all. But we do make the effort.
Finally, spend some time getting to know one another as individuals. A certain level of comfort and familiarity will only serve to enrich your relationship as a group. I knew I’d found the right critique partners when I heard myself years ago saying that I’d consider my writing a success whether or not I ever published a book. It had brought such warm, supportive women into my life. I consider each one of them to be amongst my closest friends.
I wish the same for you!
Thank you Nina :)
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