Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are Critique Groups Worth the Bother?

by Jackie King

The short answer is, "Yes." Finding a Critique group that is a perfect fit is more complicated.

Locating 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 harder 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, and because the participants were kind hearted, I’ve stayed. There are now only two founding members remaining in this group, but this group 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 throw my computer out the window.

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.


Loulou Harrington said...

Great post, Jackie. A good critique group can make all the difference to a writer's development and success. But if you find one that's not kind and supportive, run the other way as quickly as you can--although that's rare. Writers are generally extremely helpful and generous to beginners because every successful writer was a beginner at one time, and most of them never forget that.

Jean Henry (Mead) said...

Good advice, Jackie. I've been a member of several critique groups, some good and others simply social. I regret no longer living in an area with a group, but will probably look for one online.