The Value of a Writing Critique Group

When I first started in a writer’s critique group, I expected that everyone would just read my work, come back in the allotted two weeks and say, “Wow, this was awesome!  No changes from me!  When can I read more!”

I was greatly disappointed when the members of my new circle didn’t say that at all.  They broke right into “Here’s what I’d change.  I don’t know why you have your character doing that.  Show, don’t tell!”  I was completely confounded.  Where was the encouragement that would make me want to keep writing?  I thought that was what the circle was for…to spur me onward!

But no, after having joined SCBWI and having been a part of my writer’s critique group for a little over a year, I now fully understand the group’s use.  They’re supposed to focus on the stuff they think I should change in my writing.  Otherwise, it’s not a critique group.  I can get the flat-out encouragement from my parents and husband.  This group is supposed to tell me the hard stuff so I can make needed changes in the actual plot, grammar, characterization, etc (stuff that my parents and husband wouldn’t necessarily look for.)

So now I’m more in touch with how to take constructive critism, which is a good quality to have as a writer.  This was evidenced when I attended the peer critique at the 2012 summer SCBWI conference.  In my small peer group, the four of us understood the need to hear out the other people’s critiques.  However, I overheard another peer group having a challenge with one of its members.  One girl in the group near us wouldn’t let the critiquers have a word in edge-wise!  Anytime they told her something they thought should be changed, she’d interrupt with all her reasons why she’d written it the way she had.  When she finally finished explaining, there wasn’t much more time for the critiquers to give her their other ideas.  Unfortunately, she probably still doesn’t realize this, but she lost the whole benefit of that peer group.

I’m a better writer (and maybe even better worker at my full-time job) because of my experiences with my writing critique group.  I highly recommend these groups as a device to improve your own writing.

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required

© 2012 through the United States Library of Congress.