Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A to Z - All About Writing: Critique Groups & IWSG

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here and lets get on with today's letter.

C is for Critique Groups

One of the big issues I find with many new writers is that they write a story and dive into submitting it without ever having anyone else read it. By anyone else, I mean someone other than your mother or significant other. I'm talking about fellow writers who will be happy to offer advice while tearing your word baby apart. That can sound traumatic, but it sure makes for a stronger story. Remember, you are not your story. A story is a thing you made. That thing almost always (no, really: always) can greatly benefit from a few pairs of critical eyes. 

You can find critique groups in various places. If you're looking for an in person group, in which case you will likely be asked to bring a few pages to read out loud and bring copies for the group to write comments on, check your local library or sometimes local bookstores. Those places are where these types of groups usually meet. Doing a search on Facebook might also turn up groups in your area. 

If you're not fond of getting critiqued in person, I suggest an online group. Online groups are nice when you have a busy schedule, don't like dealing with people face to face, or don't live in a bigger city that might support an in person group. I've found I get very honest and great feedback online that gets glossed over a lot more in person. It's easier to be truthful when you're not face to face, calling out ugly sentences, scenes, or irrational character actions. Not only that, but the person doing the critique can take their time, save it and come back to it after thinking about what they really liked or didn't. There are many groups out there and a google search will get you to most of them. My personal favorite is Critique Circle

Find a group that fits you. That might be a genre group, a large group, a small group, a group that you feel comfortable with, though that might take a few meetings to establish one way or the other. Groups might meet every week or bi-monthly or once a month. Online groups usually require that you critique others before earning critiques of your own work.

A few things to remember when being critiqued: 
Don't defend your work, but asking for clarification is fine. 
Smile and say thank you, even if you totally don't agree.
The critique an opinion. It may be spot on, totally off, or somewhere in between. Don't get offended.
Use what feels right to you and discard the rest.
Give advice that pisses you off a few days to sink in before discarding it. Truth can be painful.
No one can write your story but you. Use rewrite suggestions if they fit, but keep your voice.

A big bonus of being part of a critique group is that you'll likely learn just as much if not more by critiquing the work of others than receiving critiques of your own work. It's easier to see what feels off, sounds bad, annoys you, and what makes something great in other people's work than it is when reading your own. Figuring all that out will make your writing stronger.

Are you part of a critique group?

And hey, it's the first Wednesday of the month! That means its time for an Insecure Writers Support Group post. Too bad this didn't coincide with I day, that would make things easy. We can't have that.

This month's question asks: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

Honesty, when I'm having a sucky time of writing, I stop writing. At least for a day or two. Not for good. I have a hard time being creative when my mind is wrapped up in negativity or the stress of a project or submission issue. So while some people might push through that and keep on going, I'm not one of them. I need a couple days of distance from whatever has me down to process or come to terms with it before I can dive back into being productive. 

What about you?

Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.


  1. I still want to find one of these. They are scarce in my area! Or at least get one person to read what I have written.

    1. Try an online group. I like the wide variety of people available for critique. Many groups will have genre focused areas so you'll get useful feedback from people who read and write what you do.

  2. I think the problem is really picking a group, there's just too many choices. there is that worry that people will take your idea, so, it's a gamble & also if the person critiquing don't understand what you're trying to write, it's not so easy to decide if that person is really doing you a favor.

    if it's a bad day to write, than I don't write, I keep hearing people saying you have to keep writing even if you're writing crap, I don't think so, unless the urge is there.

    have a lovely day.

    p.s., my a-z post is here:
    A Crimson and Gold Morning

    since you don't have the name/url as one of the comment options, I thought I make a link.

    1. Honestly, no one is going to steal your ideas. Even if someone writes something similar, they will never write the same story you will because they are not you. The people who belong to critique groups and put in the time to give meaningful feedback aren't there to steal from each other.

      If a critiquer doesn't understand what you are trying to convey in your writing, then perhaps it isn't conveyed as clearly as you think it is. This happens a lot. Writers know what they mean but that often doesn't make it onto the page the first or second time around. That's one of the big benefits of having an honest critique, to point those things out.

      Any one who spends the time to give you a critique is doing you a favor. Whether you choose to follow their advice or use their suggestions is totally up to you. :)

  3. Hi Jean - I'd be happy to have a blogging friend critique me ... as they'd understand where I was coming from - but for now I'm not in that mode. I'm sure any critiquing will be a useful help ... cheers Hilary

  4. I belong to a group that meets once a month. We begin with a writing prompt and write for ten minutes or so and then share. Always amazing how different the offerings are. Then we each read from something we are working on, no more than a couple of pages because of the size of the group so everyone gets to read and have some feedback. Stay focued and to the point and save your socializing for afterward or you will find people dropping away saying, "I don't have to go tonight just to visit." Highly recommend this experience after three different groups through the years. As this post suggestions, HELPFUL.

  5. Hey Jean! Sorry I missed this last week. I've been fortunate with my critique partners. They've all rocked. And left some of the most amusing comments for me...


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