Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are Critique Groups Necessary?


Yay! I joined a newly formed YA critique group for my first ever YA novel. I completed the draft last year, did some revising, put it away for a few months, and now I'm going to get some superb feedback from writers who write for that age. (I will work hard to do the same for them)

Another writer I know has belonged to one critique group that met in person and a second one online. She was so disappointed by the critiques in both groups that she has sworn off of them. She doesn't understand why I'm so thrilled.

"They aren't necessary!" she said, proceeding to tell me why it was not a good idea.

Yes, there are writers who have been very successful going it alone. Maybe I would have been, eventually, but I don't think so. I'm not that successful now, but what little success I've had I give to the groups that I belonged to in the past.

I explained to her that I have been blessed by belonging to other groups. These groups were for MG and younger and had a wide variety of skill/experience levels in the membership. Being a newbie can be lonely when looking for a group, so I was grateful to the first group that accepted a newbie like me!

 The importance of the things I learned from that first group was immeasureable. The second one was even better! I left both groups when life became too hectic and I couldn't give to them what I felt they deserved.

 I told her that having other people give me honest critiques improved my work tremendously and she should try again. Sometimes it is just not a good fit.

 "No," she said, shaking her head. "Never again."

The irony in all this? She has sent me a few things for my opinion. I give it. I send her things. We avoid the word critique.

 Some writers can go it alone, I can't. I need the pushing, the brutal honesty, the suggestions for improvement, the commiseration, the cheers, and even the constructive disagreements when two writers see a work differently. I need what members in a critique group can offer.

So do I think critique groups are necessary? For me, a definite YES!

What about you?

25 comments:

  1. I think every manuscript needs to be critiqued...even if you don't call it that :) There are always things that make sense to you but not a reader, or ways to got with something that you didn't think of. I don't think an organized group is important, as long as you have two or three people in your life who can give you an honest opinion.

    demitrialunetta.blogspot.com

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  2. We definitely need feedback. Honest feedback. Someone who will tell us what needs fixing. Their viewpoint, of course. So the more viewpoints, the better. It's impossible to be objective about our own work.

    We may have to shop around to find a group that works for us. I'm so glad to hear you've found the "right" one for you!!
    Ann Best, Author @ Long Journey Home

    Your friend is an example of how sensitive we all are as writers. Not easy to put ourselves out there for feedback!!

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  3. Demitria, I agree, if you have people who you can rely on like that, it's great.

    Ann, that may be the problem-sensitivity.I have to be very careful giving my opinion to her:)

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  4. A definite yes for me too. I may choose to ignore a critique group's advice, but when I go back and reconsider, I almost always see I would have profited from taking part or all of their advice.

    I had a great critique group I had to leave when I started working again full-time. I miss them, but I've found other critique partners since and I wouldn't be without them. They give you a real impetus to keep writing, and they make you think about your plot, characters, etc. And I definitely learn from doing the same for them.

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  5. Critique groups is one of the things that have helped me grow as a writer. But a bad critique group can a lot of harm and cause writers to be gun-shy to try again. I do believe you can outgrow a critique group - but for me, I find them invaluable.

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  6. Mary,"They give you a real impetus to keep writing, and they make you think about your plot, characters, etc." Exactly! That's why I love critique groups.

    Karen, what you said about bad ones is sooo true. I've been lucky in that department.

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  7. i definitely believe in crit groups, but I've not had good luck with them and have been in some really horrible ones. So I'm very hesitant to try again. At some point, I will. I'd probably do better with a crit partner than a large group.

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  8. I'd be years behind in my writing development without critique partners. Years! They've been integral in my progress (granted, my progress may seem minimal to an outsider, but I know that I've made strides) :)

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  9. Andrea, I can understand that. I prefer smaller groups, I think you can give more time to each writer and also get to know them and their work better.

    Jess, that's the way I feel about my own development as a writer.

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  10. Even if they're not necessary, they are a lot of fun when you have the right people involved. :O)

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  11. I've just joined my first crit group. I'm looking forward to the feedback. I think. :)

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  12. Absolutely. I love the encouragement I get from mine to keep going. It's also nice to know that there's someone out there who does enjoy what you're writing.

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  13. Critique groups are so helpful. I love getting critiques. Even when there might be a lot of thoughts or things I need to work on - it all helps me in the end, and after all, that is what I'm looking for. I always hope that I'm doing right by the others in the group also.

    P.S. YAY for the new critique group!!!

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  14. Liza, fingers crossed you have nothing but amazing and wonderful experiences!

    Bethany, we all need that encouragement, don't we? Especially when writers have to leap so many hurdles.

    Kimberly, I know what you mean. When I see my work through someone else's eyes, many times it becomes a head thump moment for me.

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  15. Good for you, Catherine. Whatever it take, I say.

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  16. I have not been a part of any Critique Group, but I feel we all need feedback, so its a good thing if members write for the same age group.

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  17. Thanks, Anne.

    Rachna, I love the fact we can find groups who do write for the same age.

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  18. I've never worked with the kind of group you mentioned.
    In the past, I've relied on a couple people whom I trust and respect.
    I don't always like what they have to say, but I know it's usually what I NEED to hear.

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  19. I have had a number of different partners - but never part of a group. I'm always worried about how much time I have to give. But I really think you need to shop around to find the right fit for a partner. Your friend shouldn't give up so easily! I now have an amazing crit partner - Paul Greci, and can't imagine sending anything off before he's seen it first.

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  20. Rick and Terry, I think having a personal, trusting relationship with other writers or just others is wonderful.

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  21. I agree! Critique groups are more than necessary--they're downright helpful. BEcause we are so close to our manuscripts, we oftentimes miss important details and deadly errors--which a fresh pair of eyes can immediately spot.

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  22. Thanks, nutschell, for commenting and following. So nice to meet new writers.

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  23. A good critique group is more than just a place to get constructive criticism about your work. It's a support group, a cheering section and a reminder to be accountable for your work. My critique group keeps me motivated and grounded.

    I would agree that if you join a group that you have trouble jiving with, you should try another. We don't query agents/editors we don't think we would get along with, why should we suffer in a group that doesn't feel right?

    A few bad experiences shouldn't turn a person off to the process. Its benefits out-weigh the struggle it might take to find the right group.

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  24. Kelly, Quoting you:" A few bad experiences shouldn't turn a person off to the process. Its benefits out-weigh the struggle it might take to find the right group."

    I tried to tell her that but she's too resistant, but I've told her some good things came out of my first critique and she was surprised and impressed so maybe that will turn her around and she will try again.

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