Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What's a critique group?

When I first started writing, I went to my favorite bookstore and confessed to the clerk in a hesitate voice that I had started writing a romance novel. Her eyebrows rose and then Darlene led me to the section on writing and introduced me to several books about the craft. I went home, eager to find out what was between the covers. In those books, I found Romance Writers of America. I joined the national organization, as well as, the local chapter.

Greater Detroit Romance Writers of American sent me a welcome package with a roster of its members. I went through the list searching for members that I could connect with. I found one writer who lived in Detroit and called her. She was helpful and pleasant and seemed pleased to meet another writer from the area. Before hanging up, she suggested we form a critique group. She knew several local romance writers that might be interested in working with us. I agreed, even offered to host the first meeting.

After saying goodbye, I hung up the phone and announced to my husband, "I'm going to be part of a critique group."

Always encouraging, Gary answered, "That's great! What's a critique group?"

"I don't know," I responded. "But I'm going to find out."

Ten years later I actually know what a writing critique group is. A critique group is made up of writers with a common goal. They are working to improve their writing skills and come together to offer each member help and support. What I learned over the years is family members will offer to read your manuscripts, but they shy away from giving true criticism. A critique member will tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not. Believe me there were days that I didn't want to hear it, but my group's comments and suggestions were always helpful.

A critique group can be a wonderful asset or a major burden. I was lucky. My group was a positive force in my writing career. To be honest, I never thought I would get published. So I credit my group with guiding me to that end. We were a dedicated group of writers that met twice a month. Each member was expected to bring a maximum of 10 pages to our meetings. This made the group produce new material for each meeting.

I learned a lot from those ladies. They taught me about goal and motivation. I got help with dialogue, plotting and manuscript preparation and in exchange I provided the sensory elements for their stories.

My critique group members are all published authors now. When we went our separate ways, I can safely say that we all gained valuable information and insights from working together. I still rely on them to give me feedback when I get stuck. I'm happy to say they are my friends, as well as, my writer colleagues.

Writing can be a very lonely business. The friends you make along the way are priceless.

What are your thoughts on the topic. I'd love to hear from you. My email is

Remember, don't be a stranger.



Stefanie Worth said...

Couldn't have done it without you CP! You're the bestest!

For all the non-insiders, Karen dragged me back into our critique group. A year later I finished my first manuscript. The next year my novel was published.

While group critique might not be for everyone, I've found the varied insights and expertise to be invaluable in my own journey to publication. It certainly hasn't hurt my career.

Karen said...

That's what makes critiquing so good for our group. Everyone brings something special and unique to the table.

I've always loved working with you. You've added alot to my stories.


KeVin K. said...

Many years ago I was a member of an online critique group -- though we ended up being more of a support group as we coped with the pain of rejection.
In real life I have not found a writing group that was not either uselessly accepting of everyone's best effort or actively toxic.
Though most people who know me will tell you my ego is much too big to accept criticism, I'd love to be part of a good, working critique group.
Thanks for sharing a bit of what that involves.