In a recent blog post, Chip MacGregor discusses the purpose and value of critique groups. As usual, he makes some excellent points.
- The purpose of a critique group is to improve the writing of it’s members. Think of the proverb, “iron sharpens iron.”
- Critique groups require vulnerability. It’s scary to send someone work that you know is “unfinished.” But it’s important to get feedback in the early stages when you can’t decide which direction to take a piece of writing.
- Along with vulnerability, critique groups require a good dose of humility. I can’t tell you how many times I bristled at something an edit but most of the time, the remarks that hit the hardest had the most truth. You can’t take everything, everyone says to heart. But you can and should ask yourself, “Are they right?”
- Make sure your critique group members are people you trust trust to be honest with you and have your writing’s best interest at heart.
I can’t imagine where my writing would be without my critique group. They are by far my greatest writing resource, they are knowledgeable and patient enough to tell me the same things over and over (like the correct usage of sense vs. since).
But even if no other writers live near you (which I’m sure isn’t true if you look hard enough). You can still be part of a thriving critique group. The group that I’m part of runs under a different model than Chip described in his post. Instead of meeting once a week, we communicate via e-mail (although I have met most of them after writing together for six years). Although humans definitely need face-to-face connection, there are some advantages to having a critique group that meets online.
- You’re not restricted by location. We have group members in different states.
- You can give and receive edits with short deadlines.
- Meeting online makes it easier for some people (like me) to be honest.
- With no meeting time, you don’t have to coordinate schedules.
- You can encourage each other throughout the week, even on a daily basis.
If you’re a Christian, I would definitely recommend including believers in your critique group. I know the prayers of my critique group partners have carried me through many rough patches times and they have often given the encouragement that I needed to keep going.
If you’re a writer and haven’t yet joined or started a critique group, what’s holding you back?