Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Thoughts on Critique Groups

I recently attended a Field's End writers' roundtable titled Ways to Make Your Writing Group Really Work. The speakers were authors George Shannon and Carol Cassella, and they had so many brilliant things to say. I'd like to share some of the gems I picked up from their talk.

When George explained how he knew he found the right people for a critique group, he said,
"We tended to see the world through the same window."

Another awesome George quote:
"Writing groups should make people check their egos at the door."

Carol listed some important things writers need to think about:

*Your writing group may need to evolve as you evolve.
*What is your time commitment?

*What are your goals?

She said a writer should think about his or her time commitment and goals before joining a group so he or she can find a good match/like-minded critique partners. She suggested people define the group before launch.

George talked about his motivation to have pages every time he meets with his group. He said,
"I have this chance to get feedback. Why would I blow it?!"

The whole presentation was excellent.

How about you? Are you currently in a critique group? Do you have advice you'd like to share?


Diane said...

I don't have a crit group yet. Good points! :O)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I've been in one critque group since July of 08...it's been great growing up with my girls. Two have books that will be out soon, three others have sold to magazines, one is illustrating a book for one of the mg's that one of the group wrote. It's great to watch everyone on theie adventure.

Molly Hall said...

My critique group is great. We've been together for four years and we met in a class on writing for children. So, we started out with a lot in common already! The number one thing that has helped us most is staying in communication. We stay in tune with what the group needs by continually reevaluating how things are working. We have definitely evolved over the years, and that has been a good thing.
I wish I could have attended that talk, sounds super interesting. Plus, George Shannon is the coolest!

Dawn Simon said...

Diane, they made really good points. :)

Sharon, how cool that you guys are growing together. Sounds like a great group!

Molly, you guys are on top of things! How awesome that you're evolving together. I agree: communication is key. You introduced me to a couple members of your group at the last conference (where we met in person! Yay!), and I liked them. And George: you're right, he's so cool! Carol is too! You'd really like her.

paulgreci said...

I've been in two writing groups. One online and one face to face. I think finding the right people who can push you is essential. I love that quote about checking your ego at the door. I'd love to find or create the right group.

Patti said...

Agreed, you need to check your ego at the door, along with jealousy.

Marsha Sigman said...

I've been in one just for the last 4 or 5 weeks and so far it has been great! They see things that I totally miss and it has been such a huge help!

I have no advice for finding one, I was invited and decided to jump in. I think that is the only way to find out if you fit or not.

Anita Saxena said...

These are great tips. I especially like "seeing the world through the same window." This is key. I'm not part of any writing groups. But I have a few writers that I met via blogging to crit my work.
Great post!

Dawn Simon said...

Paul, I wish you luck. I agree: finding a good match is so important, and we definitely want to be pushed by our writing groups.

Patti, yeah, jealousy is no good.

Marsha, I'm so happy for you! My group will catch things I miss too. I'm glad you jumped in. I think you're right: at a certain point, you just have to go for it and see if it's a fit. Carol touched on reading each other's work first, and how it can take time to see how you work together. Good luck with the group! :)

Anita, I think getting feedback is huge, whether it's from a trusted group or trusted readers. Cool that you met crit partners via blogging!

laurapauling said...

Yes, I've been in a crit group for over a year. it's online. But we have an online chat once a week. And that has really helped. My advice is to try and develop friendship along with critting.

Hema P. said...

Sounds like an excellent session, Dawn. Thanks for sharing with us! I believe it is important to find a critique group in which every member is committed to the growth of the others as writers, as much as their own!

Susan Fields said...

Great advice, Dawn - thanks for sharing! I especially think it's a good idea to define the group before launch to avoid problems down the road. Excellent post!

Dawn Simon said...

Laura, it's nice that you have an online chat each week! I know some of my group's best stuff comes out when we're all just throwing ideas out there, getting inspired by what someone else just suggested. I bet it also makes it feel more personal.

Hema, great point! We have to think about what we can bring to the group rather than only thinking about what we can get from the group.

Thanks, Susan. Yes, I think defining the group in advance can help avoid headaches and heartaches.

Medeia Sharif said...

I'm in a crit group. I find the members to be warm and helpful. I love it compared to my last group.

My last group had many members who were arrogant, rude, late, no-shows, or pushy. This particular group should never have existed, but it did, and I fell in its grasp for three months. It was a waste of time, but I didn't want to give up on crit groups. I'm happy to have found my current one.

Suma Subramaniam said...

Great tips and questions Dawn.

I'm in a critique group and its just so valuable to read and share work.

The biggest advantage in my critique group is we began writing together and we're a persistent, progressive bunch.


Dawn Simon said...

Medeia, I'm glad you found your new group. It sounds wonderful!

Suma, it's so fun when you grow and progress together! I've experienced that with crit groups and other writers I've known a long time through SCBWI. I've been seeing friends get agents and/or book deals, and I feel their successes in my heart too.