A great critique group can be your biggest asset. The place where you make lifetime friendships, learn how to be a better writer and business person, or even find that perfect roommate for the writer’s conference you want to go to. But an unproductive critique group can be what keeps you up at night, slows your progress or worst of all, shuts you down.
How can you swing success in your favor and find a group of fellow writers who you’ll love working with?
1. Choose your partners carefully.
A successful critique group is not necessarily made up of people who write in the same genre. A more important factor for success is members who are open-minded, kind and honest. Critique partners also don’t need to be published. All they need is an understanding of what makes good storytelling and a baseline story structure vocabulary to help facilitate productive discussions.
2. Meet regularly, but not so often that it impacts everyone’s writing time.
A regular schedule helps make attendance more consistent. Once a month is fine for most groups, twice a month is as much as most people can commit to.
3. Beware of bogging down in constant rewrites.
It’s easy to bring that first chapter in, get great feedback, be excited about it, and immediately start rewriting. Then, being understandably proud of your work, that chapter comes back to the group again and the whole thing starts over. For my many years as an aspiring writer, I never finished a book but wrote the first three chapters of many works-in-progress (WIPs) enough times to fill a bookshelf. Write your chapter, get the feedback and then set it aside. Write the next chapter, keeping in mind what you learned. Repeat and keep going.
4. Never let a bad critique shut you down.
I almost gave up my writing career twice in my journey to fulfill my dream. In both cases, I let an individual who was having a bad day offload on me with a harsh critique that convinced me I was in the wrong line of work. Writers write. Writing makes us better writers. Never let anyone or anything stop you from moving forward.
5. Always ask the person you’re going to critique what they need from you.
Nobody knows better what level of critique will be helpful to them than the writer who’s submitted their WIP to the group. Do they need help with the plot? With Character development? Detailed grammar and punctuation? Ask and then honor it.
Finally, remember that groups and their participants are fluid. People come and go for a lot of reasons. Sure sometimes it might be a clash of personalities, but usually it’s because their careers or family obligations are taking more of their time. Trust the process and keep your focus on writing.
And remember, more than anything else, writing a book and starting another is the most powerful key to your success.