Monday, August 8, 2011

Critique Groups

Critique groups are one of the best resources a writer can utilize. I myself have a critique group, as well as a pool of trusted beta readers who look over my manuscripts once they're complete. With critique groups I definitely prefer to meet in person, because once suggestions have been made about a particular manuscript we can all sit around and brainstorm possible solutions and ways to improve. I find dialogue, the back and forth between writers discussing a particular piece, is the best way to get out of your comfort zone and come up with an original way to make a story the best it can be.

That said, accepting criticism is difficult for the best of us. I myself have a very hard time with it. Of course I recognize that my manuscripts need work, but when you've put so much effort into one project, hearing other people tear it to (metaphorical) pieces is a lot to handle. My critique partners are wonderful; they hit the perfect balance between critical and appreciative. They list the things they liked, the things they didn't like, and how improvements might be made.

Some tips for critiquing:

~Be honest, but not harsh. Start out by talking about the things you did like, then list some negative aspects, then finish with your favorite part of the manuscript.
~Offer up suggestions to fix the problems you identified. Even if the person you're critiquing goes in a different direction, having suggestions can help get their creative juices flowing.
~Brainstorm! Talk about the problems in each person's manuscript, and try to get to the root of the issue. Is a character acting strangely or in contradiction to their previous actions? Is there a pacing problem?
~Don't go with your immediate reaction. When someone critiques your work, take a few minutes to think about it. I objected to the idea of changing my manuscript to first person when my editor initially suggested it. However, after a few hours of considering the story and my own notes, I realized changing it to first person would make the story much better.
~Don't argue.
~Just remember, even if critique sucks now, you'll be grateful in a few weeks when your manuscript is a million times better.

Now go out and find yourself a critique group!


  1. Great advice on offering critiques. I really like the idea of helping to solve the problem. Many times critiques point out what worked or didn't work, but rarely identify solutions.

    I'd add: Don't go with your immediate reaction whether positive or negative. For example, when I get a critique that I agree with, I usually want to make changes right away. Let it sit for awhile and then decide what to do.

  2. Good advice. I'll try to follow that next time. :)

  3. Hi Kate! I'm so glad we could find each other through the blogosphere! Its so great. I love this post. Doing a critique is scary for everyone. It can be hard to hear people criticize your piece, but you also get great ideas to help make it wonderful! I also love the tips for critiquing. Very wonderful. We want to be a good partner, helping them in necessary areas but not killing their confidence. :) Love it. I will be back for more!

  4. Great points! A critique shouldn't be one person attacking the other, but something both people can learn from! Wonderful! :)

  5. Hey Kate. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your comment made my day! :D

    I love giving and receiving critiques. I've met a few great people online and we give each other feedback. I'd love to have a face to face group, but the thought scares me at the same time.

    You have an awesome blog. I can't wait to read more of your posts.

    Happy writing.

  6. Just found your blog. You're absolutely right: critique groups are one of the best resources for a writer, and your group is amazing!