We’ve talked about beta readers before. But how about other forms of help? There are groups that writers can join to get help in many ways. Critique groups are good for help in whatever way the writer requests, whether it’s grammar, style, whether it’s likeable, and so on. Writing groups vary, as well. Some are online, some are in person.
Question 39: Do you use critique groups or writer’s groups? Are they helpful?
Yes, and absolutely. Writing is as lonely a task as there is. And the product we create comes out of that isolation, so it is imperative that we get feedback. As I highlighted in an earlier post here reference beta readers, I greatly value the nuanced feedback a critique group can provide. Unlike betas who tend to give you feedback on an entire story, a writers group is much more focused at a more tactical level – word choice, sentence structure, echoes, etc.
Of course, I don’t respond to all the feedback I get…far from it. But I am very attentive to any consensus that develops. I generally get about 10 readers through the workshop of which I’m a member. If more than 3 or 4 are tripping over the same thing and calling it out in their feedback it is indisputable that there is something I must address.
In short, a very powerful way to help you improve your work, and there are a number of such groups online that are free. I’m a big fan of CritiqueCircle.COM, but there are others.
I have used a few critique groups online. It can be helpful, if you’re able to find another writer who will be helpful and honest. Sometimes you don’t know anything about who is critiquing your writing. They may not even write in your genre and that can cause issues as well.
D. T. Nova
Maybe I should, but I haven’t so far.
I use the kids I teach as my critique group. No one is as honest as a kid. They are usually helpful when prompted with questions. They are also fountains of ideas for new stories.
Gregory S. Close
No. I’ve tried a couple of on-line critique groups, like Writer’s Café, but left mostly disappointed. I did find my editor on that site, but since then I think we both left in frustration. Not many people provided actionable feedback.
A lot of people seem to confuse “critique group” with “mutual ego-stroking group,” or the inverse “mutual condescension group,” neither of which are helpful for honing craft. I’m not opposed to the idea, but I’ve yet to find a group that was just honest, practical and professional.
H. Anthe Davis
The only writer’s groups I’ve ever been in were my Creative Writing classes. I figure those count. They were nice people, and they wrote some interesting stories, but it wasn’t for me, really. I feel that when you’re trying to turn out a book that will inevitably have a large word count, you need more specialized attention, which is why I have my betas. Also, I don’t know that I could have done a group’s worth of reading others’ work while still keeping up with my own; I remember that reading and critiquing our smallish class’s batch of short stories was a lot of work, and most of them were only about 15 pages. Also, in my area, there don’t seem to be a lot of SF/F writers’ groups, and I’m not inclined toward online ones because I know I’ll just get distracted by cat videos. My Creative Writing group did teach me how to give and take criticism though, which is an essential skill for any writer — so I guess I would recommend that everyone try some kind of writer’s group at least once, just to figure that bit out.
A good critique group is gold. Finding people you can trust to tell you how it is and having skin thick enough to take what have to say and do something about it is invaluable. I prefer online groups to in person as I think it’s easier to be honest and impartial when not having to deliver the critique face to face. It’s also easier to read the feedback, fume about it, and then take a deep breath and absorb what they had to say over a few hours or days, than smiling and politely thanking someone for shredding your scene moments after the fact.
Linda G. Hill
I did have a writer’s group in which we critiqued each other’s work. There were only three of us. It kind of fizzled out. I should probably join another, and I likely will when I’m finished my edit. Right now, realistically, I’m too busy to read anyone else’s work.
Paul B. Spence
I don’t anymore. I used to. I feel that, to some degree, they are useful when starting out. They are good for meeting other writers and also for getting motivation. The groups I started in were good at telling me how great I was, but not much useful feedback otherwise.
On the other hand, I met some great authors through critique groups, such as Greg S. Close, who still beta reads my work. I’d be happy to read his if he’d write more. ( hint, hint)
So, I guess my answer is yes and no. I think if you find the right group, like the Scribblies, they can be great. Without the right group, you’re probably better off with just a couple of honest friends.
S. R. Carrillo
I used to have a pretty reliable writer’s group I went to every week. They were super helpful in broadening my worldview and offering outsider perspectives because all the help I had at that point were very familiar with the story and just as used to the world as I was. I wish I could go back to them. I haven’t really found anything close or as helpful since then.
Tracey Lynn Tobin
I don’t currently use any groups, but I have in the past and I definitely suggest them. They can be a great way to get your work read, get help and suggestions on works-in-progress, and meet beta-readers and other helpful people who can assist in making your book better. The only reason that I don’t currently use any groups is that the good ones usually require a time sacrifice. You can’t be the person who just throws down their work and expects everyone else to spend their time and energy reading and critiquing. You have to spend some of your own time to take part in the group, to contribute to other peoples’ works. At this point in my life I just don’t have the time for that kind of commitment if I actually want to, you know…write…so it’s just not in the works right now.
Jay Dee Archer
I’ve mentioned several times before that I use Critique Circle. I find it very useful to get different opinions about my writing. While I’m not concerned about my grammar, I do miss some things, and in particular, they have alerted me to my tendency to use certain words or to use passive too much. That has helped me refine my writing quite a bit. It’s also helped me a lot with flow, dialogue, and narration. You don’t always get great help from everyone, but you’re bound to get some. To get critiques, you must give critiques, as well. I enjoy it.
How about you?
If you write, do you use any critique or writing groups? Let us know if you do and if they help.