Monday, February 18, 2008


To Critique or Be Critiqued that is the Question...

By Valerie Fentress

When I first started writing seriously four years ago, there was only one person I felt comfortable to give me feedback and that was my husband. My poor husband. Reading really isn’t his thing but somehow our stars aligned and he married a writer. Needless to say I had to use many methods of persuasion to get him to read my work and critique it.

But lucky for him at my first writer’s conference I met a published author living in my city that ran a casual critique group, my hubby was ecstatic. He was more than willing to let me disappear once a month as long as he didn’t have to read my stuff.

Now I don’t know how many of you are part of a critique group, but I know some of you are saying…

I could never have someone else read my work.
What would they think of me?
What if I’m not any good?
What if they hate it?

Ah… the writer plight. We want to write. We want to publish, but to have someone actually READ what we write that’s just crazy.

These were some of the hurdles I had to get over before I stepped into my first critique group. I must say I was the youngest one there, but I was never more welcomed and encouraged in my writing than I have been in the last three years with this group.

At the time I entered the group I did have a completed manuscript, but from what I learned and how my writing grew dramatically within the confines of that little group, has caused me to put that manuscript aside cause it needs a massive overhall to match the strength of my writing currently.

In being surrounded by poets, non-fiction writer’s, curriculum writers, and fiction writers, such a mixed batch gives you such a resource to draw from. That’s the wonderful benefit to critique groups everyone is on a different portion of their writing journey and can share the tidbits you need to get your writing up to par. As well as getting a general sense of who would be interested in reading what you are writing.

Now the above does sound a bit like the fairy tale critique group, and I know there are many writer’s that have been burned and scorned by in person and online critique groups. This is not to scare anyone from joining a critique group, but it is important to join the right one for you.

It’s important to do your research before joining up with a group and sharing all your writing ideas and allowing the people access to that vulnerable spot in your soul, your writing.

For in person groups, attend a couple sessions to see the format and how people interact with one another. It’s important to be encouraged by the people you are sharing your ‘baby’ with. Do the people in the group want to make your writing style like there's or challenge you find and develop a style all your own? In part this sounds silly, but do you get along with the people in the group. I was part of a group that there were more people that got on my nerves than helped my writing. And it’s hard to accept critiques from people you don’t respect, so take that into consideration.

For online groups, ask a lot of questions. See what group or association they are associated with, abd how often they share manuscripts. Get a few of the names of the members to Google them and see what their writing history is. It’s good to have at least a couple in the group that are published to ensure the critique’s have merit and the experience to help you in your publishing journey. Try to review past critiques to see if the flow and style will be helpful to your work.

These are overall suggestions, and surprisingly choosing a critique group can be just as important as choosing your literary agent. Because this little band of writers will be pushing you toward your goals, and that is a treasured bunch of people to have at your side during the ups and downs of the publishing world.

But I must say in my own experience, I probably would still be annoying my very supportive husband and my writing wouldn’t be were it’s at today with out the help of my critique groups. It’s good to be with people of like mind to try to convince my husband I’m not the only crazy writer out there.

Happy Writing.

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