Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you. I’m back today and I’d like to talk about writing. I haven’t done a post on the craft in quite a while and I know it’s time. In this post, I’m discussing critique groups. Are they beneficial to writers?
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A good group is invaluable to a fledgling writer as long as they’re offering constructive criticism. Unfortunately, not everyone offers that. There’s always one person in the group whose main purpose is to just criticize. If they tell you your writing stinks but can offer no advice on how to improve it, then ignore them. Remember there’s always one 😉
What happens when you’ve gone to the group for a while and the only feedback they can give you is your story is good. This is awesome to hear, but it’s not constructive to improving your writing. Now, maybe your story is that good.
Or maybe, you’ve outgrown the group. They can’t move you beyond your current skill level. This happens and it’s not a bad thing, but if you want to continue improving you need to move on. It’s hard because you’ve developed relationships with these people and some have even become friends, but in order to grow, you must join a new group or find an expert who can tell you where your story is weak.
The question is, how do you tell when you’re ready to move on?
Here are some guidelines. The first one we’ve already discussed, but it bears repeating.
- When you get positive feedback, but you feel there’s still something missing in your story.
- When you leave the group meeting, frustrated because you didn’t receive any valuable feedback and this has been going on for quite some time.
- Your skill level has grown so much that you’ve become the expert in the group. Remember the old saying, “If you’re the smartest person in the room. You’re in the wrong room.” That applies to writing groups as well.
The second one is the biggest indicator. When you’re feeling frustrated, it’s time to move on. Now I know your next question is move on but where to? That’s when I’d make my way to social media and search for some experts. One that I’ve found to be invaluable is Kristen Lamb. The link to her blog is below.
Check her out, I’ve found her classes to be helpful as well as her advice.
In a few words, Kristen Lamb delivers.
There are other experts who can help you as well. Follow the hashtags #amwriting or #ontheporch on twitter and you’ll meet all kinds of experts who you’ll be able to establish a relationship with and go on from there.
Another expert who comes to mind is Angela Ackerman. Check out her website.
She offers all kinds of advice on the craft of writing and she’s frequently on Twitter chatting with writers. These people will help you hone your craft and if they can’t, they’ll be able to direct you to a person who can.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Do you have any advice for writers trying to improve their craft? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!
34 thoughts on “Have you Outgrown your Critique Group?”
This is very interesting Lisa, thank you! I’d never considered the idea of joining a writing group, but you’ve inspired me to go in search of one x
I bet you could even find one online. If you can’t find a group, maybe a Critique Partner. There’s someone always looking for one on twitter. 🙂
I will need to find a group to push me along lI think!
It definitely helps, that’s for sure! I’ve become great friends with many members of my group! 🙂
I shall search then!
Such an interesting post and really useful things to think about. I like the quote about if your the smartest person in the room your in the wrong room.
Me, too! I don’t know who originally said it, but I’ve always remembered it. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
I didn’t even know such groups existed so thanks for showing me and giving good advice to writers.
You’re welcome! We’re all in this together, right? 🙂
I recently read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “The Pursuit of Perfection” and she makes an extremely convincing case for not being in a critique group at all. One of her reasons is that most of the group won’t understand the conventions of the genre you’re working in and they could be negative about the very things which reflect that genre. I wouldn’t join a critique group. I think you could end up writing to please the group, which might be a good thing if they match the profile of your target audience, not a good thing if they don’t.
You bring up a valid point. Usually most critique groups are made up of unpublished writers and again their opinions are subjective. I’ve found I get the best advice from my Beta Readers. (1) Because they read the whole story not just 4 pages at a meeting. (2) They can find words and phrases that become repetitive where a critique group just can’t do that. Thanks for bringing that up. I should have addressed it in my post, but didn’t think of it at the time I wrote it. 🙂
The urge to pick up the quill again is growing stronger recently. In the past I’ve enjoyed structured workshops as a means of motivating myself to complete projects by deadlines and engage with a small group that “knows” the rules. But I may benefit from from joining a less structured “critique group.” Have you had any luck with Critique Circle?
I haven’t tried Critique Circle. Actually, I’ve never heard of it. Is it a facebook group or something like that?
I’m not terribly familiar either. I suppose its more of an online forum. Apparently very popular and well-regarded. Writers submit a short story (or chapter) and the community (or subcommuity) can choose to review and critique it. Submissions are protected, but I don’t know how helpful the feedback/engagement is.
I’ll check it out. Thanks for the info, Gabe. 🙂
I recently joined a writing group and am loving the experience. The only drawback so far is I want more! I feel like the feedback has improved my story immensely but I want to move at a faster pace. Which is so tough because everyone, including me, has jobs and lives. Do you recommend joining more than one critique group? What are the benefits/drawbacks of having two or more groups offering feedback?
I’ve never joined two critique groups so I can’t give you an answer on that one. I too wanted to go at a faster pace. I’m wondering if a critique partner isn’t better for me at this point. Someone who can read what I’ve written and get the whole story all at once. That way they see where I’m going and can give me a more detailed critique. I’m in the process of trying that now with my latest novel and so far the feedback is fantastic. I’ve really grown as an author and I’m very excited about my story. 🙂
That’s awesome to hear, Lisa. I agree a critique partner would be ideal in that case. Do you think it’s best to find a partner in a similar genre?
That depends on the genre, I guess. What genre do you write in?
Upmarket general fiction. Jodi Picoult-type stories.
Oh. I’m intrigued. I love Jodi Picoult. I think you would be able to have a critique partner with any genre. I was thinking if you were writing Science fiction, you’d want someone with a science background to make sure the science makes sense. 🙂
That’s a great point. Thanks for the advice! I love Picoult, too. I think she manages complex emotions in real-life situations beautifully.
Yes she does. That’s one of the things that makes her such a popular author!
Great post. I think I have been through this but not properly processed it as ‘outgrowing’. I think I craved more literary pain and wanted people to rip my work apart. I often question this now lol!
LOL! I know what you mean. I just want to improve my stories. I want to be a better writer and it’s such an awesome feeling when I see improvement. 🙂
Love Kristen and Angela! Great advice, Lisa. I hadn’t been to a critique group in years. Outgrown some, and didn’t feel I benefited from the others. So I try to learn with each book. What course did you take with Kristen Lamb? I’m curious! Wink.
Plotting for Dummies and there was one where she critiqued my first five pages or something like that. Both were beneficial for me. 🙂
Thanks, Lisa! Glad to hear! Hugs!
I have enjoyed critique groups in the past, but had to move on. Very beneficial at the time. There’s always the one in the group (as you pointed out) that criticizes everything for no reason, and no positive suggestions, and then there’s the genre that I hate, but had to read, (too many monsters and gore for me!). Great post by the way!
Thanks, Rita! I hear you on the genre you don’t want to read. It’s hard to give feedback on something you don’t like. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! 🙂
Timely, for me at least. I just decided to look for a critique partner or group but didn’t know how to get started.
Oh good. You can probably find a Critique partner on Twitter by asking for one and using the hashtag #amwriting or #ontheporch. You might want to establish a little bit of a relationship first that’s up to you. If you want a group to get together with and meet in person, a lot of times there’s a group that your local library can direct you to. And check out the comments below because Gabe brought up an online group that he’s heard of…I think the name of it was Critique Circle or something like that. 🙂
I’ve experienced the same thing and I moved on!
Good for you! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂