Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Benefits of a Writing Critique Group

Writer's Stop
Writer's Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)
Yesterday was the monthly meeting of my writing critique group.  I've alluded to this group before but this has become such an important part of my writing life that I thought I would introduce you to the power and benefits of this type of group in this blog.  I went for several years of writing without benefit of a critique group.  Instead I asked friends to give me feedback on my work.  They tried to be helpful but in reality, most of what I got was that they liked it.  Even if I had known where I could find a critique group, I would have hesitated to join one.  I still felt unsure of myself, my writing and definitely of my ability to help someone else. Now that I'm part of a group, I wish I hadn't waited so long!

The first question to ask is where can you find a critique group?

Critique Group Options:  Online Critique Groups

One option is a  large online critique group.  These groups can boast a few hundred members! is one such group.  While I have never been a member of a critique group online, I'm sure that there are lots of benefits.  In this group, you are required to critique someone's work once a week and in turn, your work is placed on a waiting list for someone to critique.  There are guidelines and structure.  No doubt you not only get good feedback on your work, you quickly become adept at reviewing other's work as well.  I do feel this type of group lacks the personal support and interaction that you could get from a smaller group and I'm not sure how much give and take there would be between members.  For instance would you meet new people?  Would you be able to develop a relationship with other writers? For me at least, these are part of the benefits of my critique group.

Online Forums

Next, are online forums where you can post your work and other writers will notice and comment.  Unlike the previous type of online critique group, a forum is generally less organized, less structured and the quality of the critique may be less.  An example of a forum could be found in Jeff Goin's online writing  class, Tribewriters.  I've been a part of this group on two occasions and depending on what you are looking for the forum can be a very meaningful part of the experience.  In response to a particular lesson, Finding Your Voice for instance, you write and post something, then other writers comment.  While you may get some very worthwhile comments from devoted, regular forum members, sometimes the response my be more along the lines of "I really like this!" than useful information that you can use to improve your work.  There are many groups that have a forum where members are committed to commenting on each other's work.  Blogplicity is an example of a forum on facebook where bloggers post their blogs and then comment on each other's blog--potentially to  improve not only writing ability but traffic on blogs. 

Local Critique Groups

Local critique groups meet at a physical location on a regular basis, usually about once a month.  The Christian Authors Guild that I am a part of has critique groups that meet after the regular member meetings.  Some groups are closed to new members.  Other groups are open and welcome new members.  The critique group that I am a part of developed out of the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project that I participated in last summer.  It is a critique group made up entirely of teachers who are writers so there is a twofold camaraderie. The quality of the critique that you would receive from a group like this is very good.  There are additional benefits to a local critique group.  It is easier to establish relationships, to support each other in multiple endeavors related to writing and to share resources.  One of our group members is applying to a local university to work on her Ph.D in writing.  Another has published a book and is promoting it at a home-school conference.  Members become friends beyond the critique experience.  Of course the disadvantage is that you have to actually show up in person to receive the benefit of the group.  Sometimes the schedule might not work out with your schedule. 

Start Your Own Group

If none of the above type of groups meet your needs or if you can't find a group that fits, you could start your own.  It could be online or a local group or even a combination of both.  It could be open or closed.  It could be structured or informal.  You could create exactly what you would like in a critique group.

If you don't belong to a critique group now, I hope that you will find one or start one soon.  I definitely waited too long to become involved in a group myself.  It can help you improve your writing and challenge you to try new things. Through deadlines it can help you be more productive and introduce you to new resources. The benefits are terrific!

Do you belong to a writing critique group?  How did you find the group? What are the benefits?

Want to learn more about goal setting and how to Be Do Have, even with a busy life?  Listen to my teleseminar  with Jen McDonough where I talk about goals and goal getting! Details are here:Teleseminar

Only TWO weeks away!!!  Want to spend an entire day learning more about following your passion and making your goals happen? Attend the Called Woman Conference in March and listen to an impressive line-up of speakers who can teach you how to take your dream to reality.

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