Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Critique Group Series Part 1: Before You Join

Joining a critique group can help a writer grow to the next level, which is why most writers want to be a part of at least one group. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know if you’ll have a good fit with a group until you’ve tried it out, but there are some questions you can ask yourself to help prevent a bad match.

Sometimes writers jump into a crit group for the wrong reasons and are disappointed or even discouraged when they don’t get what they expected out of the group. A part of the problem can be the wrong match between the writer and the group, but occasionally, the difficulty stems from a writer who’s not prepared for criticism of their masterpiece.

Decide if you’re ready for a critique group by asking these questions:

-Why do you want to join a critique group?
-Are you looking for someone to praise your writing?
-Are you ready to be told your writing needs improvement?
-Can you use constructive criticism as a guide to help you better edit your manuscript?
-Do you have a good enough understanding of your story to know when you’re being offered advice that won’t work?
-Are you in love with your words and refuse to make any changes?
-Are you prepared to take some of the suggestions and leave the rest?

Just because you’re ready to become a member of a critique group doesn’t mean the first one you come across will be the one for you. Choose a critique group based on your answers to the following questions:

-What are the rules to the group?
-Does their schedule work with yours?
-Will you be able to receive as much as you give? (Some critique groups require you to crit a few chapters before you’re permitted to post one of your own.)
-Are the other writers working in the same genre as you? If not, do they have an understanding of your genre?
-What writing level(s) do the other members fall under? Is there a mixture of beginners, intermediates, and advanced writers? Or is everyone along the same level? Are you truly at this level?
-How many members are in this group? Would you feel more comfortable with a small group or a large one?

There are no wrong or right answers to the above questions, only honest answers that’ll help you know what kind of critique group you want to be a part of before you begin your search.

Do you have any questions or suggestions to add to this list that will help someone decide on a critique group?


  1. Great list of questions, Lynnette. Finding the right fit is so important.

  2. One other suggestion I would add is to make sure that you can be honest. Don't read someone's work and respond with only positive feedback to avoid hurting someone's feelings. If they use the work smirk 200 times(I did that in my first ms *smirk*), you can't be afraid to tell them. It's important to be prepared to lay down the truth to the people you are critiquing or they won't get any better, and that is the ultimate goal, to help each other become better writers.

  3. Great questions to ask ourselves, Lynnette. nt Very important to find a good fit before committing to such an undertaking.

  4. "Will you be able to receive as much as you give?" a really good question! Not getting equal feedback tends to make a writer cranky. It takes a lot to do a crit and it's only natural the critter expect the same in return.

  5. Excellent, excellent questions and advice!

  6. This is a great list of suggestions. I feel very fortunate to have found a great crit group, so I can't stress how important it is to have a good fit.

  7. You had mentioned starting a Yahoo Group with your crit group. How do you use the Group? Do you post chapters through messages in the group? Can you explain the process a bit?

  8. Tina, thanks for the honesty comment. So true. I've had people critique my work who were too nice. I want someone who'll shred my story (only if it's justified, of course) so I know where I need to improve. Sweet compliments may boost my ego, but won't help me succeed as a writer.

    Sherrinda, I hope I answered your question in today's post.

    Melane, I'm glad you found a crit group you like.

    Kelly, thanks. :)

    Quixotic, I totally agree.

    Roni and Heather, you've got it, gals.

    Lynnette Labelle

  9. There are all excellent things to consider. I was part of 4 critique groups before this last one. Not all of them were bad. One was my schedule changed, and the others it was personalities and I found I needed something different than what I thought.

  10. Great post. Good questions and advice.

  11. I started my critique group and I'm not happy with the way it's going. Only a few people in the group take it seriously. I'm frustrated with our schedules not meeting right now - which is mostly my fault. Maybe an on-line critique group would work better, but I'm nervous or unsure about how those work.