Thoughts on Critique Groups

In the West Texas Writers Academy, we had a session about critique groups. A critique group is a circle of writers who exchange their work and ask for opinions on it. While that may sound like asking for trouble, done properly, it’s a beneficial tool a writer can use to become better. I’ve never been in such a group, but I think I will look around for one. I’ve always enjoyed feedback on my writing, even negative feedback.

In a good critique group, the members aren’t threatened by the feedback they receive. On the contrary, they want an honest opinion of their writing. Maybe there are holes or oversights in their story that need to be corrected. A good critique partner will catch those and point them out. Members have to be willing to listen to the remarks and criticism because they are instructions on how to make things better.

A bad critique group will tell a writer that everything is beautiful and wonderful and doesn’t need changing. Or a bad critique group will tell people they should sell their computers and ONLY read books, not write them. Both of those are bad because they provide no help in improving. Get out of that kind of critique group.

Mostly, good critique groups help writers become better analyzers. We learn from each other, know what to watch out for, and pick up tips on how to write better. That’s what it’s all about after all: getting better and better.

Many writers aren’t in critique groups because of insecurity. They’re afraid their thin veil of confidence will be ripped to shreds. They are afraid their innermost secret will be revealed: they aren’t good enough. That’s all writers’ fear. Even I have it. Or they’re afraid that someone will call them a fraud because they can’t really write or are just pretending to do it. I have that fear too. Mostly, their biggest fears are being prevented from doing what they love to do. Writers need to get over all that and join a critique group.

So my fellow writers who write in isolation, get out! Meet other writers and learn from each other. Quit being afraid to join in. I’ve had more support and help from other writers than I ever got out of a book or a blog. Quit being hermits and join the tribe.

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