Critique Writing Groups: Grueling or Inspiring?
Robin Mizell, who writes the blog, Treated and Released, recently commented on my piece, Don’t Even Think About Joining My Writing Group. She suggests that joining a critique writing group can help you develop the thick hide that is essential if you want to publish your work. She also provids a list of online critique groups.
If you can’t find a local group, an online group may be a good substitute. Or you may prefer getting comments online rather than face-to-face. In a ‘live’ group, you must listen to criticism without over-reacting. The advantage of reading online criticisms of your masterpiece is that you can howl or swear to your heart’s content. (Very therapeutic!)
I haven’t tried an online critique group myself but may in the future. I suggest that if you’re interested in an online group, join it but give yourself a time limit, say a month, to try it out. Then be honest in answering these questions:
- Is it helping me improve my writing?
- Have I learned anything new?
- Is it helpful but it takes up too much time? Time that could be better spent writing?
Here’s what I would look for in an online critique group:
- The site provides information and examples about how to critique appropriately–and takes action if comments are inappropriate.
- People provide positive responses that are specific. Not just: ‘Great stuff’ or ‘I liked your story’. That’s not a critique. When they point out weaknesses or omissions, they do so in a constructive, specific way. Not, ‘weak ending’, but ‘I felt the ending didn’t tell me enough about your main character’s decision’.
- No one suggests frivolous changes.
Eg ‘I don’t like the character’s name because it reminds me of my mean 3rd grade teacher’ or ‘the ending’s too grim–I love happy endings’.
- The site doesn’t sell or pass on people’s email addresses or details.
- The site addresses in some way the important issues of content theft (plagiarism) and flaming.
- The site is set up so it’s easy to find your way in it without hunting. It has a simple process for posting material and critiques. The ‘help’ section is not overly technical. It offers a FAQ section.
- The site is free or offers a free trial period.