Dramaquill's All Things Writing

June 10, 2008

Pros and Cons of Critique Groups

Being a writer can be a very lonely profession. For some, this isolation becomes a real deterrent; preventing them from achieving any real kind of success.  Critique groups

provide a wonderful lifeline, especially for the newer writer.  But what exactly is a

critique group?

 

Before the internet, critique groups consisted of individuals living in similar geographic locations who desired to connect with others for support, networking and feedback.  Geographically, the internet has opened the door for writers from all around the globe. Online critique groups enjoy membership from a wide variety of places.

 

When making the decision to join a critique group, whether online or in your local community, writers should consider the following in their research:

 

1.  What do you want to get out of belonging to the group?

 

2.  How much time will participation take?

 

3.  What are the goals of the group?

 

4.  Is the group genre-specific or general writing?  (Know which you’re looking for

     when investigating potential critique groups.)

 

5.  How big is the group?  (More than 10 participants is often too large a group.)

 

Obviously newer writers can receive great benefits from participation, but many seasoned professionals consider critique groups a continuously useful tool as they prepare and submit manuscripts.

 

As with anything, there are always pros and cons. Let’s take a look at these as they apply to critique groups.

 

PROS:

 

1.  Receive feedback on everything from grammar and style to character, plot, tone, 

     POV and much more.  Critique groups are a great place to test out new works and

     first drafts as well as fine tuning a manuscript before sending it out.

   

2.  Provides a place for encouragement and interaction with other writers. 

   

3.  Critiquing the work of others is a great way to become a better editor of your own

     work.

 

4.   Writers are exposed to each other’s styles and unique voices.

 

5.  Although the critiques are the focus of the group, network opportunities also exist

    in everything from leads on contests to information about publishers and agents as

    well as wisdom from those with experience in different areas of the business.

   

6.  The submission deadline, usually once per week, is often the nudge many writers

     need to continue to produce new work or stay with a longer project (like a novel).

 

7.  Writers can easily miss small errors in their editing but the critique group offers

     several pairs of eyes who can spot these mistakes.

 

Critique groups, then, can be a great place to test out new works or give final drafts one last tweak before sending them out.

 

CONS:

 

1.  Is it safe to show your work to strangers?  (Although this can be of concern, the

     many writers surveyed for this post agree that critique groups are quite safe.)

    

2.  Harsh critiques can be discouraging.  (Remember, you must decide if the

     criticism is constructive and whether or not you choose to use the advice given is

    is always up to you.)

 

3.  The time it takes to critique the work of others can become time away from your

     own writing.           

 

It is apparent that the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to critique groups.

Do your research.  Before you join any group, make sure that they meet your needs so that belonging to a critique group can be a helpful tool in your ongoing quest to become a better writer. 

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5 Comments »

  1. I think the biggest pro is that belonging to a group is a motivation to write.

    In my opinion, you haven’t fully explored the con side of these groups. One very big drawback is that the writers who join are more frequently new writers, and their critiques can sometimes be damaging. What I mean by this is that younger or newer writers may not know what they’re talking about when they tell someone something about their work, and it could be off the wall. Even experienced writers are susceptible to judgements, and receiving off-the-wall comments can cause any writer to doubt what they’re doing.

    I long to be part of a writers’ community because of the isolation and lack of feedback, but I’ve had some horrific experiences in wrtiers’ groups. Because of my need to share my work, I’ve been blogging a memoir as I write it. I don’t get enough feedback this way to satisfy the need, but it’s the best I can think of to do right now.

    Comment by marcys — June 10, 2008 @ 2:57 PM | Reply

  2. I hear you – believe me. But I must say that you have to research your critique groups more thoroughly so you don’t end up in one full of beginners. I only apply to those that say for “intermediate level writers” or “serious writers looking to be published” or something like that. And the ones I’ve joined require you to fill out an application and then send a writing sample and the others vote on whether or not you can join. I found one group through MSN and eventually we went private. It’s a group for writers of kidlit poems and rhyming PBs and the group contains published writers and those actively submitting and close to publication. We state that it is not a beginner group. My other group is for prose (mostly novels in YA or MG but also adult novels and some NF articles etc) and again, no one is a rank amateur. In fact, thanks to the feedback from our group, one of our members has a book deal and her new MG is coming out in 2009. We’re all so excited.

    One of the big drawbacks to critique groups is if there’s a lot of turnaround of participants. I’ve been in groups like that but it was my lack of doing better research on what I was joining that caused me to enter into one of those kind of groups.

    I’m sorry you haven’t found a great group. Try some of these websites and look for exactly what you want and I’ll bet you find a great group before long.

    http://critiquegroups.com/Home
    http://literaryden.co.uk/home.aspx
    http://d2.dir.ac2.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/Literature/Creative_Writing/Workshops/Online/

    I found my rhyming group through MSN so you could check there as well. My other group was originally through BOOST writing site but we broke away when they started charging a fee. My rhyming group has had more turnaround than the prose group but there are still original members in it and most members have been there for several years. The prose group contains 6 of the original 8 members and we’ve stayed that way for the past 3 years and plan to continue indefinitely.

    I hope you come back and read this and I hope you find a great group.

    Comment by dramaquill — June 11, 2008 @ 12:47 PM | Reply

  3. Thanks for your response and help. I’ll check out those sites.

    By the way, when I click on your name I arrive at a completely different site, something like Beyond Broadway.(?)

    Comment by marcys — June 15, 2008 @ 9:28 PM | Reply

  4. Yep, that’s my business site: Slightly off Broadway. I co-own it with my best friend.

    Comment by dramaquill — June 16, 2008 @ 10:42 AM | Reply

  5. Yep, that’s my business site: Slightly off Broadway. I co-own it with my best friend.

    Comment by dramaquill — June 16, 2008 @ 10:44 AM | Reply


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