For a new writer, joining a critique group can be one of the most important decisions you make to advance your writing skills. Shortly after I first joined RWA two years ago, I also met my first critique group. They have taught me more about my writing than I ever could have learned so quickly on my own. I probably would have learned it eventually, but there's nothing like having almost weekly feedback on what's going wrong and what's going right in your current work. Recently, I joined a second critique group that is (if it's possible) even more awesome-cakes than my original group. I am member of both right now, but what I get from the two groups is two very different experiences and critiques.
Here are my top 5 tips for making a critique group work:
- Make sure you get along with the people in the group. If you don't get along or have anything to talk about, eventually you might find yourself bickering or getting your feelings hurt. You might start to dread the entire experience if you can't get along with the group and learn to trust them.
- Give your critiques the time they deserve. Most of the time, you get what you put into something. If you only give half-effort critiques, how can you expect the people in your group to spend effort and time on your piece? If you want them to put a lot of time into your pages and give a detailed, constructive critique, then you should do the same for them every time.
- Be honest. If someone says something that hurts your feelings, let them know right away. Do it in a non-confrontational way, but don't hold it in. Believe me, I know this from experience. If you hold it in, then what happens the next time they hurt your feelings? And the next? Eventually it builds up, and that can lead to an argument or worse, the breakup of the group. Critiques should be helpful and everyone in the group should be supportive. It's all about working together to make sure that the group is successful and that people reach their personal goals. If a comment hurts your feelings or is presented in a way that seems ugly or personal, speak up! A simple, "The way you worded that hurts my feelings. In the future, if you could try to present that in a different way, I would appreciate it." might save the group.
- Be clear about your goals and what you want from the group. Let your critique partners know what you are aiming for. Just want to finish a dang book for a change? Brainstorm ways they can help encourage you to keep moving forward. Looking to polish the first fifty pages and enter that contest you've already dreamed about? Let them know they're going to be micro-critiquing those pages for the next month. Stating your goals and putting them out there where you can find support and be held accountable goes a long way toward actually reaching those goals.
- Find people with similar goals and writing time. If someone in your group is writing 100 pages a weeks and you only have time for 10 on a good week, you might not work as the best critique partners. You'll end up spending hours on their work and only getting a small amount of critique in return. Also, if your goal is to get published and to be a serious author, but your group members are writing for fun and without any serious goals, you might find that they don't take the critiques as serious as you do. Find people who have the same goals you have and want the same things out of the group that you want. You'll all get so much more out of it because in the end, you all want the same thing.
Have a wonderful Friday everyone! Hope you had a great week and an even better weekend!