Do you need a critique group?

The answer to this may seem obvious. Afterall, we in the business often recommend finding others with whom to share work. The more eyes the better, right? Well, that’s true–to a point. You know the expression “too many cooks…” right? That’s why it’s essential to find the right critique group. So what should you look for in your writing peers?

1. They should be like-minded, but not too like-minded: The people you are sharing your work with don’t need to write exactly what you write or read exactly what you read. It can be helpful, in fact, to have varied perspectives. But it certainly helps if you share enough of a vision with your fellow writers that they can understand what you are trying to accomplish. If the person giving you feedback is leading you toward a story that you don’t want to write, then you’re just going to end up frustrated.

2. They should like to think about others’ work almost as much as their own. Your fellow writers should not simply be looking for a captive audience. That’s part of it, sure, but if your members don’t have a modicum of humility then there will always be one voice dominating the discussions. This makes for very lopsided feedback.

3. They should have opinions but not be too opinionated. Sometimes a discussion can be derailed when one overly strong opinion is stated so forcefully that the rest of your group can’t resist the tendency to fall behind it. What if that overly confident person is wrong? It happens. It’s essential that you either know how to mitigate these opinions or that you find a group where all members contribute equally and aren’t afraid to challenge each others’ assertions.

A final note: One also shouldn’t join a critique group to fulfill a perceived expectation. Sure, these groups can be helpful, but you don’t always need a group. Do you have a savvy peer whom you trust to read your manuscripts? Do you need to have seven of them? Not necessarily. One may be enough. What’s essential to a writer is a high level of feedback. You don’t necessarily need an entire test market.

Do you have a critique group or just one or two friends whom you trust? How did you find him/her/them? Let me know in the comments.

One Comment

  1. Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I have just recently found a writing partner. I like to think of it as a tiny critique group! We have shared a couple things and it has been so refreshing to get a second pair of eyes on a project. I think we would both be open to adding others, but right now, it’s working really well.
    Great post Tamson and thanks for the info!

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