18 Feb

Critique Groups

I’ve written before about Different Styles of Critiques and When to Ask for a Critique. Today focuses on the different types of critique groups.

Different Critique Groups Meet Different Needs

I’m heading off today to my local critique groups and I realized I have several different types of critique groups, each one filling a different need.

Critique Ideas. Two years ago, I started the Friday Ideas group with the idea that we would only critique ideas. Too many of my manuscripts were rejected with this comment: “The writing is strong, but this just doesn’t stand out in today’s crowded market.” I wanted to get rid of that comment permanently, so we now critique ideas. Is this strong enough to compete? Is is original, or can I name something similar?

Critique in Person. Local groups allow me to get feedback in person. Often, these meetings are just sharing good news or bad news and are an encouragement group as much as anything. Yes, I need encouragement! Often! (You can leave me an encouraging comment below if you want! I need them a lot lately! Well, all the time, really.)

We also take in new people all the time, give them a taste of how we struggle to get things right and see a steady stream of people decide they don’t want to do the work needed to succeed. But there are a few who stick and they are a joy.

Critique Novels. Online, I have a critique group that only looks at completed novels. Writing one chapter is easy; writing a complete novel is much more complex and difficult. So, we only critique completed manuscripts. It’s a small group and we have agreed to read two novels from each participant, so a total of six novels per year. Very doable. It’s important to keep this group small.

Critique Groups for a Special Purpose. In my Novel Revision Retreats, I create special groups of four and within the group the writers exchange novels to be read before the retreat starts. This is a group created for a special event and often they dissolve after the retreat; but just as often, something sparks among the writers and they continue in some on-line fashion.

As I talk to people around the industry, I know there are many other types of critique groups formed, each filling a certain need for a certain season. Don’t be afraid to create one designed especially for you and your work!

3 thoughts on “Critique Groups

  1. For years, before online critiquing became more popular, I organized online groups here in Western Washington/Southern British Columbia for SCBWI WWA.

    I learned how to critique online, and it’s harder for those who are thinner skinned. There is no facial expression or soft sound in the voice that moderates the critique, so the points made in critique come across harsher than intended. This is the number one reason people drop out of online critiques. They feel dissed.

    Second, some folks have one or maybe two pieces, usually picture books, and once they have those critiqued, they are done. There is no more writing as a hobby, and they are off to macrame or water color. The critique group they have joined becomes something they can drop, and because no one has seen their face, they can fade out easily.

    I always suggest that online/email groups start with seven members, so when the requisite number fade out, they are not left with two, too few to critique.

    After an online group has been active for six months, they have usually become family, and they are joined forever. I have two groups. One is about seven years old, and the second is at least three. I have two families who will be there forever.

  2. Great post! I’ve always found critique groups to be hard to maintain. We had an online writer’s discussion/support group that met every week for over 10 years, but the critique groups that tried to spin off seemed to die early deaths.

    Anyway, I do like these ideas!

    And I’m still reviewing p.b. retreat notes and enjoying pictures. What a fabulously productive weekend! http://tinyurl.com/cponss

  3. Darcy,

    Here is an encouraging comment for you—your workshops are wonderful! I went to a picture book workshop that you held in Wisconsin about two years ago, and I still refer to my notes and your workbook on a regular basis. Two of my favorite picture book manuscripts came out of the retreat, and while they aren’t published (yet!) I’ve had some interest and good critiques on them at other workshops. Keep up the great work!

    Lisl

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