by Gayla K Hiss
Want to Boost Your Writing? Consider a Critique Group
Most people don’t enjoy receiving critiques of their work. It’s not easy to hear that someone isn’t as enchanted with your character as you are, that your dialog is stilted, or the plot doesn’t make sense. When an editor at a conference told me that I needed to join a critique group, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea. First of all, I didn’t know many writers who lived near me. Secondly, I realized it would require a considerable investment of time critiquing other people’s work, time I couldn’t devote to writing. Then there would be those dreaded critiques of my own work that I would need to deal with.
However, the editor also said that within a very short period of time after forming her critique group, every member had become published. That got my attention. There happened to be a signup sheet for critique groups at the conference, including a place to specify the area in which we lived. Two other people signed up who didn’t live too far from me, so I contacted them after the conference and we formed a small critique group.
The first thing we did was establish a place and time to meet. Then we agreed on the guidelines we would follow for critiquing each other’s work. We started meeting once a month, as our schedules allowed. It took a few sessions for us to get acquainted and feel comfortable sharing and receiving feedback with each other, though everyone was gracious and sensitive to that.
We soon began to jibe together and even became good friends. I believe their invaluable feedback has helped me become a much better writer and prepared me for being published. Here are three ways a critique group can help improve your writing, too:
Because we’re so close to our work, it’s easy to have blind spots. We become so personally invested we often overlook what is obvious to someone else. Having other people read and examine our writing gives us fresh perspective and reveals both obvious and more subtle missing elements to our story we wouldn’t otherwise notice. After a while, critiques of my manuscripts helped me recognize recurring problem areas, and I adjusted my writing to proactively address them.
We need to know what we’re doing right as well as opportunities for improvement. When writing a critique, start with noting the author’s merits. This will encourage and help them realize you really want them to succeed.
2. Preparation for Future Feedback from Your Publisher
Receiving and responding to constructive feedback in a critique group helps make us more comfortable and receptive to feedback from others. One thing I’ve learned is that my books are never perfect the first time. They can always be improved upon, and when you get that long-awaited publishing contract, chances are your editor will want you to make revisions. A critique group prepares us for that day and also gives us a dose of humility. It doesn’t help our writing career if we have a reputation for resisting constructive feedback from others.
3. Encouragement and Support
Let’s face it, writing can be a very solitary endeavor. We need the encouragement and support of fellow writers to help recharge and motivate us to continue writing and finish that book. Critique groups can provide that lifeline, and if you and the other group members click, you could become lifelong friends. But even if you don’t, it helps to interact with other people on a regular basis who understand the unique challenges that come with being a writer, and to know you are not alone.
Whatever your writing goals, a critique group can help you reach the next level, and by developing skills in critiquing other people’s work, you’ll become better at self-editing your own.
3 Ways a Critique Group Will Boost Your Writing by Gayla K. Hiss (Click to Tweet)
When Park Ranger Jenny Snowfeather runs into Deputy Marshal Chase Matthews at her brother’s Fourth of July barbecue, she suspects there is more going on in Eagle Valley, WA than fireworks. After Chase confides that he believes the fugitive who killed his partner may be hiding out in the area, Jenny is skeptical at first. But when her peaceful town is besieged with a sudden crime spree, she realizes Chase’s theory may be true.
As the manhunt advances to the rugged backcountry of North Cascades National Park, Jenny is confronted with her past mistakes. But she soon discovers the greatest threat of all is losing her heart to Chase, who is obsessed with capturing the fugitive at all costs.
Risking everything to help Chase find the man who could kill them both, Jenny’s faith is put to the test. Like an avalanche waiting to happen, their path is fraught with danger. Will the enemy get away with murder? Will Jenny and Chase reach freedom and safety, or be buried alive? They must tread carefully. One step in the wrong direction could mean the difference between life and death.