Saturday, March 30, 2013

Three Ways to Participate in a Writing Critique Group

Sure sign of Spring - Robin - Bird
  Bird (Photo credit: blmiers2)

It is Sunday afternoon and I've finally hunkered down to write this blog, iced tea at hand, doors open to the screened porch and the promise of springtime weather outside. Even when the weather isn't as lovely as it is today, I consider it a perfect setting.  I know that many writers leave their home and write somewhere else such as the local coffee shop.  I've considered this but frankly there are too many problems at the coffee shop.  There are the distractions of other people and conversations.   There is the problem of hoping you find a table near a plug for the computer.  There is the problem of realizing you need a particular note you wrote or book you have left at home.  There is the problem of having to pay for each cup of coffee or tea and I can drink a lot of coffee when I'm writing. There is the problem of having to pack up all your materials when you leave, even if you aren't finished and would like to leave everything just as it is until you are ready to write again.  So for me, writing alone at home is the perfect setting for ease and productivity of writing.  

The problem at home is that there is no one to converse with, bounce ideas off of or to critique my work.  I've always known that I needed a critique group but until recently I didn't know how to go about finding one and I didn't really know what to do if I showed up for one.  I suspect this is a problem lots of writers have.  When I  recently invited a writer friend to join my critique group, one reason he balked was because he'd never been a part of a critique group before and didn't really know what he had to offer.  As I described to him what to expect, I remembered how nervous I had been the first time I sat down with a critique group.  Not only was I worried about whether they would like what I'd written, but I was also worried about what I could contribute to them as well.

Bless, Address or Press?

In a previous post, I wrote about how to find a critique group.  In this post, I'll share what to do when you get there.  Most every writer has some fears of inadequacy when it comes to sharing their work.  Is it good enough?  Is everyone else more advanced and a better writer?  How can I  critique someone else's work when I have a hard enough time just reviewing my own? These were some of the questions I asked myself the first time I experienced a critique group in the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project.

Here are a few guidelines we were given for participating in the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project critique groups.  We began by letting the group know the purpose of the piece and the intended reader.  This is critical and it helps the author make sure that they are writing to a specific target audience.  Next we would state if we if we wanted the work, "blessed, addressed or  pressed".  What do these terms mean?

  • Blessed means that you are not yet ready for a critical review of the piece.  You just want the group to listen and respond in an positive manner.   I can't tell you how reassuring it is to know that this option is available when you are presenting a piece that is very personal and close to your heart. I chose this option on more than one occasion when I presented memoir writing where sharing it was risky and made me feel very vulnerable. 
  • Addressed means that you want one problem or concern specifically addressed.  Is the piece too long or short?   Is it hard to follow?  Does it answer the questions that the reader would have about this topic?  The possibilities are endless but at least in this case, you as the writer tell the group what you want addressed.
  • Pressed means that you are ready for a full review of the piece.  You would of course like to hear the positive comments of the group, but you are also ready to hear any concerns or problems that they see in style, content or format.
Having a critique group for me has improved my writing in numerous ways.  Since many of the members of my group are English teachers, it has been a mini-editing service for style and punctuation. Their insight into the content of the piece is invaluable.  I in turn bring a different perspective to the group and often advise them on numerous resources that they can use.  Together we have created a close-knit supportive group that I look forward to seeing once a month.  

What about you?  Where do you like to write?  Do you have a writing critique group?  If so what are the benefits?

Need to find a writing group?  Join the Christian Authors Guild for support and inspiration! 

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  1. A critique group is a great idea, Lynne! I've been blessed to have an editor/friend and a publisher (at least two folks there) to examine my writing and give me valuable feedback. We, as writers, can only self-edit to a point, and do need others to assess our work with a critical eye. It does help us grow in our craft, that's for sure!
    Blessings and Happy Easter, my friend!

  2. Lynne,

    I would love to have someone critique my writing, but I don't have the time to return the favor, so I just can't justify joining a group.

    Have a Victorious Day!