What’s So Great About a Critique Group? Part Three.

What’s So Great About a Critique Group?

Part Three in The Critique Group Series

Part One  Part Two

Things to watch out for once you’ve established your group. Congratulations! You’re helping each other succeed and keeping each other accountable. But hang on. There can be a downside and being aware of these things can head off any problems before they start.

One of the biggest cons to a critique group is that the members can start to sound alike. Each writer has a unique style and voice, even if it takes a while to discover your voice—it’s in there somewhere. The temptation is to edit other’s work in your style and voice until your entire group begins to sound the same.

Peer pressure forces some writers to change their voice, while others just slip into someone else’s style gradually without realizing they have abandoned their own voice.

Make sure every member understands the need to be totally committed. One person shouldn’t be doing all the work. The goal for the group is to learn and share. Go to conferences. Take online classes. Sit in on seminars. Bring back what you know and share it with your group. If each member takes the other members’ work as seriously as they take their own, and pushes themselves to grow as a writer, edits will become better and better.  

Be Respectful—Follow the Oreo Cookie Analogy. Everyone in the group will bring a different style, voice, experience, and skill set. That’s the best part. However, not everyone will have a good tableside manner. By this I mean, think before you speak. Think before you redline. Think before you criticize. The purpose for the group is to help each other. You came there for help. So did everyone else.

Use the Oreo cookie analogy. Say something positive first, and then suggest ways to tighten and strengthen writing or conception issues, then end with something positive. People are more apt to listen to your suggestions after you’ve told them something good. Their ears and heart will be open because you took the time to tell them what you liked. Lace your words with grace.

Critique group members who stay together and get along well become sort of a family. Your writing family. The more you meet and get to know each other, the easier it will be to help each other. Taking constructive criticism from people you trust and respect is far different than listening to your hard work torn to shreds by someone you don’t know who may not have your best interests at heart.

Respect each other’s time. One person shouldn’t be the center of the weekly meeting. Set a timer if you need to monitor and divide time equally. Some weeks, one person may need more help than other weeks. Be fair. Be considerate. Put others first and they will turn around and do the same for you.

Find the entire Critique Group Series Here:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four 

3 Comments

  1. Well said, Lori! No wonder they’ve tapped you to lead several critique groups in NTCWA.

    I know your critiques on my work follow the guidelines you suggest — even on those dicier-than-Lori bits. You practice what you recommend.

    And, yes. We will get together again soon.

  2. This is why it’s so important to trust each other. A group’s survival depends on such, knowing you can be honest with each other but not hurtful, striving to help each other every step of the way. I wouldn’t trade my critique group for anything.

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