Saturday, June 2, 2012

Writer Critique Groups – Friend or Foe?

Writer Critique Groups – Friend or Foe?

A critique group is a lifeline for the new writer. It can assist him in forming good habits before poor ones set in. Without the aid of the group I belong to, my work would not have advanced beyond the sophomoric stage it was at four years ago. I’m a self-published writer, my suspense book She’s Not There is on sale on Amazon and has sold nearly two thousand copies since it came out last August. Would that have happened without the encouragement of my friends in the group? I’d never have gotten there on my own.
            One of our members, Donna White Glaser, author of The Enemy We Know, was the first of our members to ePublish. Her experience and assistance encouraged the rest of us to do the same. I think many would-be authors daydream about the kind of book they’d like to write someday, and that daydream never becomes a reality.  For me, being in a group made that dream come true.

Joining a writer’s group can benefit the new author in many ways:
1.     Improve style and quality of your writing.
2.     Improve grammar and punctuation.
3.     Act as a regular motivator, forcing you to keep up with your writing. Our group meets every two weeks and the members must submit 1500 – 2000 words to each member of the group.
4.     Support you on the journey to your novel’s completion.
5.     Members of the group share experiences with things like marketing, conferences, social media, contests and events.
6.     Gives you a regular sounding board for your work.

Our group consists of only five writers. We limit our meetings to two-and-a-half hours, so it would be difficult to have a larger group and still give each other’s work an in-depth critique.
There are other writer’s groups, larger than ours, who have no regular requirements, instead members share passages of their work by reading aloud, and readings are done on a voluntary basis. We had occasion to read a writing sample from a member of one of these groups and it was clear that a smaller group with regular submission requirements contributes more to writing quality. For a motivated writer, a smaller group provides the greater benefit.
Detractors of the writer’s critique group believe that it stunts creativity. This could possibly be true in the case of a very seasoned author, but in my opinion, the opposite is true. If my work is boring, the group is not shy about letting me know I have to up the creativity to hold their interest. 

Dear readers,
In an interview, when asked what advice I'd give a new author, joining a critique group is always my first point. Please let us know if you have experience with being in a group and how it worked for your writing. Always enjoy hearing from you!



  1. I couldn't have put it better myself, and definitely agree with you.

    My own group is larger than yours, we are victims of our own success and find it terribly difficult to refuse writers who so want to be part of what we do...

    It is a shame there are not more in the area that actually offer a listening ear with positive useful feedback.

    Yours sounds wonderful! Good post...

    1. Yes, the bigger the group, the less individual help it can give. When ours was larger, (7), we had to time each person's critique time. It was the only way to be sure everyone got their work covered by everyone in the group.

  2. I'd love to know about the process you go through in terms of the critiques. Until I read your post, I would have never thought of such a thing. It definitely could be helpful, as long as everyone is of the same mindset in terms of being able to hear the information being shared and to share it in a respectful way.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi, Jo-anne,
      Here's what we do:
      Everyone submits via email,(at least a week ahead of time) to all the others a writing sample (we are all doing novels) of 1500-2000 or so words. We each print them out, critique on the draft and bring it to the meeting. At the meeting, when it's my turn to be critiqued, each member tells me what they thought of that section, the good and the bad. So what I get each time, is both verbal and written feedback from all four members of the group. I does wonders for my writing!
      Well worth the time to start one if you're in an area with other writers. The woman who started ours had a notice in the local paper and at the library.

  3. Writer Dave Here.
    I've belonged to a few writer's groups and some are used for social meetings more then actual serious critique of your work.
    But saying that, most groups provide at least motivation and a sounding board if not advanced critique. There are some good online groups also.
    But I agree you need someplace to read your work aloud and get feedback. If anything you learn to be thick-skinned!

    1. Thanks Dave!
      Yes,I know of a few groups that operated that way. Nothing wrong with that, if there were one in my area, I'd probably belong to that one too.
      Our group does in-depth critique: grammar, sentence structure, story line, the whole deal. It makes a huge difference in the finished product!

  4. Hi Marla, just a quick note to let you know that I chose you in my post about The Versatile Blogger Award. Here's the link: Thanks

  5. I agree with you about how a critique group can help us grow as writers. I am part of a small critique group (8 to 9 people) that meets once a month.

    1. How does it work? Do you all submit pieces of writing to be critiqued?
      You are fortunate to also have one in your area!
      Nice to hear from you,


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