Sunday, February 27, 2011

On critiquing

I've read a lot of posts over the last week or so about critique groups and whether or not they work. It's got me thinking.... I have several different critique groups because I write so many different things. For instance, I have a group which focuses on YA novels. I also have a group for novels in general. I also have a group for short fiction, although that one seems to be teetering on the edge of collapse at the moment.

In all these groups there are fantastically helpful reviewers. There are also reviewers whose comments just don't ring true with me, and whose opinions just don't carry the weight that other reviewers do.

I think the trick to getting something out of a critique group is to find the people who you trust. It may take some time. You also have to be ready to take criticism. When I joined my first group, I don't think I was. I was still convinced my book was brilliant and perfect and anyone who disagreed was a moron. It took a few months of critiquing other people for me to have enough perspective on my own work to know some of the comments I was getting were right.

Now I have a solid group of reviewers whose feedback resonates with me. I know I can trust their judgement, and if they say something doesn't work, well, I believe it. These are my go-to-guys. When I'm stuck somewhere, they're the ones who can unstick me. I still get critiques from people who don't get my work, or are just copying the comments the person before them made, but it doesn't bother me. I just thank them politely, and move on. And every now and then, one of them points something out I've never thought of before, and none of my other reviewers has mentioned.

As a writer your work is going to be read and misunderstood by (hopefully) a wide range of readers. A critique group can be your first introduction to the diversity of your audience. And yeah, it's kind of scary!


  1. I've been with my CPs for almost 10 years now. It did take a lot of time to be completely trustful. It's so nice to be part of a group though that has seen my writing grow over the years. I hope that it's not as bad as it used to be! LOL!

    Great post!

  2. 10 years! Wow! I hope I manage to stick with some of mine that long...

  3. LOVE my critique group -- we've been together six years. And you're right: trust is key...trusting when to take members' advice and trusting your gut when you need to reject advice. Cue Hemingway's quote, "Develop a built-in bullshit detector." :)