Thursday, October 9, 2014

Critique Groups—a Challenge and a Blessing

by Jackie King

Finding the right critique group can be a bit like dating. I can be time-consuming, frightening and emotionally painful. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. But if you’re persistent, the results can be a wonderful enrichment to your life. Only you can decide if it’s worth the investment of your time.

A good critique group is a valuable tool to any writer, but if you’re a beginning writer finding the right one can be a challenge. This process may take courage and determination. Many of the best groups are by invitation only. Some of these groups include multi-published authors who may seem intimidating to a tyro. But as writer Jodi Thomas often says with a laugh, “I was a 15-year-overnight success.” That’s true of more published authors than not.

To get started, begin hanging out where the writers of your genre are: their author pages on Facebook, writer groups, and writer conferences. Most writers are wonderfully friendly and helpful people. The money I spent attending writer’s conferences has put me in contact with many authors.

Remember, you can always start a group of your own. Take a writing class at your local community college and invite the students you meet. Look for an online group. I just Googled “Critique groups for Tulsa writers,” and found several opportunities. Two were local writer’s groups and one was an online writing group. This is the way you start.

Years earlier I was invited to join a group that has changed a great deal over the years, but because the participants were kind hearted, I’ve stayed. Now, there are only two founding members left in this group, but it has morphed into the gem of all critique groups. I trust these writers to tell me the truth and to tell it gently enough that I won’t want to go home and burn my computer.

If you’re starting you own group, set up guidelines to begin with and stick with them. One of the rules in our group is that we must always be kind as well as honest. Some groups have a rule that you must either bring something to read for critique or a writing information handout for each member.

These things are learned by trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if meetings for your first group begin to fizzle after a few months. Keep encouraging each other, and above all else, keep writing.


Bill Kirton said...

Sound advice, Jackie. My experience has always been that such groups are more often a blessing than a challenge. I'm still impressed by how generous writers are to people who are, at least in theory, competitors vying for the same markets. If someone's serious about their writing, it's essential to get some informed feedback.

June Shaw said...

How right you are, Jackie. I wound up in a group with generous, supportive people. Before that, I had one online critique partner. All she wanted to do was swamp me with everything she'd ever written. It does take balance, kissing a few.