Community, Resources

#FreeWriterResources: Critique Groups

In the past, I’ve written about two wonderful critique groups I belong to. One is a picture book critique group that is smaller and operates more typically, and the other is a middle-grade group that is larger and takes on a more supportive role, offering beta reads and critiques as and when necessary. Both of these have been instrumental in my writing journey. Both of these will continue to be.

And both of these cost me nothing to be a part of.

Well except genuine concern, loyalty, and a willingness to be vulnerable. If you don’t think this is you, then a critique group may not be the best fit for you. But do reconsider it. They’re so worth it!

Here are a few benefits of being in one:

You get useful feedback

Your critique partners will read your stories in all their stages. When it’s a rough outline, when it’s semi-polished, and when you thought it was done but then you rewrite it all over again. They’re the ones who’ll never get sick of seeing all these versions and will tell you what’s not working. As a new writer, this is really useful. And as you grow will see that they are growing too, and so will the quality of the feedback you are getting. Basically, you will get the right feedback at the right time.

Constant confidence-boosting encouragement

All that feedback you are getting about what isn’t necessarily working? Well, your critique partners are also some of your closest writer friends and they care about the person behind the words as much as the words themselves. They will ‘sandwich’ their criticisms with plenty of reasons why they believe in your story, and will even care enough to tell you when not to waste your time going down a certain revision path (although the latter might be harder to realize as they will be super gentle about this). All this while pointing out your strengths. All this while telling you they can’t wait to see what you come up with. How could you let them down?!

You have someone to share it all with!

Someone recently told me that writing is a game of ‘hurry up and wait’. One day you may get an email from an agent who loves your work and wants to see more, another day it might be a form rejection from that very agent, and most of the time it’s just long periods of waiting. You may be trying to crack an idea, finish a manuscript, deep in the querying trenches, unhappy with the latest industry trends, waiting to hear back from editors, going through a creative slump thanks to being inside the house for too long thanks to a raging pandemic….or you may have just gotten agented, sold your book, and won an award. I’m pretty positive that every writer goes through both ends of these spectrums, and even the rather boring and flat creative plateaus in between where nothing seems to be happening. Your critique groups are there for it all. There will always be someone’s good news to celebrate, or someone to commiserate with. And you NEED that connection with reality to keep you grounded in what can be a sometimes surreal experience.

See how the content under each point grew in length? That is because the best part about being in a critique group is much more than just the critiques. If you’re someone like me, who thrives on human connection, do yourself a favor and form/join one! With that, I’m off to chat to the newest critique group I’m in, a small group of verse novelists from four different time zones!

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