Critique Speak

critique group 4

Another year, another critique group? I’m pleased to say that I’ve joined a third, forming a wonderful triad. How is this one different? In this case, writers gather twice a month, which doubles the motivation to produce. Situated in a smaller room, our number is capped at six. That means we all share something for feedback most times. Attendees don’t read their works aloud but do send pieces in advance through email. Instead of evenings, this half-dozen meets in the cool of the library while the Texas sun is still high in the sky.

Although several other members also belong to multiple groups, each combination develops its own personality. One gathering is specifically aimed at writers and illustrators of children’s literature, and the other two attract those who write for various levels. We critique novel chapters, stories, poetry, songs, memoir, and other types of non-fiction. Want to know more about queries, summaries, or elevator pitches? These are also presented and analyzed. Most importantly, not only do we assess possible improvements, but point out the positives of what’s working in each piece.

Beyond the share/feedback cycle, all three configurations circulate information about upcoming events of interest, in addition to facts about submissions for agents and publishers. We celebrate, praise, and console, since this calling involves both highs and lows. I find the camaraderie among people with different backgrounds who all share a love of writing to be so exhilarating, interesting AND comforting. When I first started my journey, I had no idea how important this activity would become. If you’re a writer or illustrator and haven’t yet found just the right spot, I hope that you’ll continue your quest!

Feel free to share in comments what you like best about your critique group or what you would look for in your search!       ~Becky

book fest
FRISCO BOOK FEST: Fergal O’Donnell and Gary Thornberry (current and former presidents of Write Club); Becky Michael (founding member of Write 4 Kids)

52 thoughts on “Critique Speak

  1. We meet weekly with a summer and Christmas break. Of course not everyone can come every week, but it works out often we are six. We also talk a lot, at the beginning, but then in response to what people have read out and, we like to think, intelligent discussion. I always feel energised.

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  2. I like the diversity of writing that our critique groups bring. We meet monthly and usually have 10-16 people attend each month. Depending upon the number of submissions we have 2-3 different groups. Recently we have started mixing the groups up. On the plus side, we have something fresh to read and review. (Several of the writers have been working on novels so we get a fresh chapter each month.) It is fun to watch the progress, but there is not often something different to critique The hard part is for new people that do not know the back story of a novel that is near the middle or end. The author is constantly having to say that that was covered in an earlier chapter or taking time to explain something that most of the other members may already know.

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    1. That’s a great turn-out for a critique group! The largest group that I attend has discussed breaking into several separate groups for sharing, maybe depending on genre, etc., but hasn’t done that, yet. Yes, the issue about newer attendees not knowing the backstory can be a complication. Some of our members who are writing long novels attach a short summary to their chapters to fill in a bit of that background, which seems to help somewhat.

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  3. I was in a critique group for years, but it fell apart when we got to the ends of all 4 members’ novels. No one was starting anything new, so we said, “Well, maybe later,” but so far we haven’t resumed meeting. I’m not working on anything major right now, but if/when I do, I’m sure I’ll miss the feedback. Already miss the camaraderie.

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  4. Our group is small – just three and we meet once a month – which comes round fast! We are all fairly experienced by now and used to working alone but the insights are always so helpful and we enjoy the mutual support – and that camaraderie. Next week Gail Aldwin has a book launch for The String Games and we’ll go to that and in June Rosanna Ley has one for The Lemon Tree Hotel. I’m the slow one!

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  5. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve been in a critque group. I recently attended a local writers’ conference and met someone who was looking for a critique partner. We’ve done our first exchange, and it’s worked out well. I’ve also recently critiqued a work colleague’s work-in-progress. So I’m dipping my toes back into the water!

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  6. Becky, it sounds like the three groups you’re in are very enjoyable and valuable! I’m not in any groups like that myself, but am a member of a national columnist organization that serves a somewhat similar function via our yearly conference and in frequent social-media interactions. Those interactions are very helpful and energizing.

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    1. Thanks, Dave; yes, they certainly are! I know that many writers, such as yourself, gain valuable input over the internet. Within my groups, we even do a bit of that when someone has to miss a meeting, so I can relate. Bottom line is that we each just need to find our own way and what works for us!

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  7. Being in a group forces me to write. Sometimes I like to be lazy, so that’s my number one benefit from being in a group. What I also enjoy about a critique group is that each person brings a different perspective. When one person says they didn’t understand what I meant, then the others offer suggestions on how to make the writing clearer.

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    1. I agree, that being “forced” to write is a very important benefit of critique groups. I can also be quite lazy or easily find something else that needs to be done first! Thanks for visiting my blog, Linda:)

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  8. ‘We celebrate, praise, and console, since this calling involves both highs and lows. I find the camaraderie among people with different backgrounds who all share a love of writing to be so exhilarating, interesting AND comforting.’ This is so lovely and so true. The wrong people can shut off the flow of our writing – it’s important to find kindred spirits.

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  9. I’ve been part of many writers’ groups and then had to let it go for too long, actually. I joined a wonderful group last year and the very generous and enthusiastic members have made all the difference! Thanks for sharing your experience, Becky!

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  10. As a beginning writer, I enjoy learning about everyone’s process. I have a very dedicated critique group that meets weekly (We’re all retired, which makes that so much easier). I tried joining a second group one week, but their format was harder for me. They read their pieces aloud, and you are expected to listen and write meaningful comments at the same time. I do much better when I can read someone else’s work in silence, often rereading the parts that aren’t clear the first time.

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  11. I once belonged to a fabulous critique group for children’s books. It disbanded a while ago after 6 or 7 years. If there were to be a new one this go `round, it would be more organizing it, but you’ve got me thinking ….

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      1. Well, when I’m not crazy-busy, I do. Two of us would be the same as the original group, then I’d have to find 3 or 4 more people whose goal is to be traditionally published and of approximately the same skill level. We always sent our MS or pages ahead of time, too. Much better. BTW, Amalia Hoffman belongs to the NJ SCBWI that I do. 🙂

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