Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Critique Groups: Are they needed?

Musing from Ahirah Recently someone asked about our experiences with critique groups especially being a new writer. In my humble opinion critique groups are necessary. It’s a great way to interact, either in person or via internet, with other writers. Yahoo seems to be the breeding location for such critique groups. I have belonged to a lot of groups. Sometimes the groups were so large I felt overwhelmed. I did “lurk” and learned a lot about the writing craft. There are two critique groups that I feel have been very helpful for me. The first one is Eclectic Writers of Romance. It is a restricted group meaning. It has a limited number of members and new members has to be approved by the entire group. Some members are published with Ellora’s Cave and Siren Publishing. The second group, PRC2 Paranormal Writers Critique Group has more members but that doesn’t stop them from truly getting to know one another and making new members feel welcomed. Most of the members are published with different E-publishers such as Freya’s Bower, Eternal Press and Loose Id, to name a few. These two groups have given me the bias eyes that each and every writer needs (even published ones). As a new writer I think it’s very important to have others read your stories and give their opinions on it. Remember that its just opinions on what is right or wrong with the story. I have met outstanding women who know their grammar. Without them I don’t know what I would do. As you write you tend to think of your writing as your baby. You nurture it and protect it and feel that nothing is wrong with it. Joining a critique group allows you to WAKE UP and realize that your’re a horrible speller (I know I spelled it wrong), need to learn more about POV switches, stop using words such as “was”, “felt”, “that” all the dang time and learn how to write in such a way that you SHOW a story instead of TELL it. Personally I have nothing bad to say about critique groups. Just know that none of the people giving critiques are professional nor are they agents or editors. The advice and suggestions they give you, may still cause you not to be picked up by an agent or editor. Other writers can find plot issues and conflict issues with your story that you didn't even know existed. Perhaps they noticed that your characters say something that totally goes against how they acted in chapter one. Take the suggestions with a grain of salt. As one critiquer tells me: Use what you can and throw out the rest. I think that’s sound advice. Only you know your story and what you want your readers to experience when they are reading. When you join a group be prepared to return the favor and do critiques for others. This is a great way to take a step back from your writing and concentrate on someone else’s. I love doing this because it helps me notice things that I take for granted. Like POV (point of view). I personally don’t have a problem staying in one POV during a scene. But some writers do. I also love doing critiques because I notice things about my own writing. By looking at others works you can learn how to describe something like the weather or a flower by the words others use. You notice the style of their writing and how easy the words flow together. So I ask everyone: What’s your opinion on joining critique groups?


Amanda Young said...

Whether you belong to a crit group or not, having someone read your work is important. No matter how talented a writer you are, there's always going to be something you miss after having read your story numerous times.

Janet/Cricket said...

Particularly at the beginning of a career crit groups are usually essential. Even if you think you know all about writing, you are bound to learn something new.

In addition there is a comradery that comes from being in a group. When someone has a success or a set-back (I won't say FAILURE) then sharing that with everyone helps keep it in perspective.

Plus you often hear of new opportunities through networking with a group.

So, yes, I think critique groups are very worth while.

D.N. Lyons said...

Yeah, I like critique groups too. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be published this year.


mindspill said...

I really don't know what I think about critique groups- I guess I can't say too much since I never participated in one before. But if I can gain some pointers about my written words and learn more about the craft, I can't see the reason of not joining one. ONE thing I'm aware, you gotta have a tough skin and not allow the opinions of others discourage you during the writing process. Also, I'm assuming critique groups may help prepare you mentally for the reviews and the criticism of others once your work is published.

Lynnsplanet said...

Critique groups are awesome if you have the right people in them.

I began using online critique groups back in '94/'95. That's a story in itself.

Participation is a must. I've learned most of what I know from critting others. And, even though I may be busy with the next story I'm sending to my publisher, when someone posts a chapter or more, I'm on them. While my work is important, so are theirs.

Eclectic Writers of Romance is a group for beginners and newly published. Kind of like a nursery school to build the blocks for stepping out into a world where people are going to expect you to provide near perfect work for critiques. We have a mix from light to heavy critters -- that is a fantastic combination. No group should be full of ego boosters or destroyers.

As AK can attest to, if you can handle one of my crits - you'll do fine with an editor's edits. I'm the destroyer.


Ahirah Towns said...

This is from Tabitha Shay,

She’s having some problems posting so she emailed me her comment


I read ur blog, and u did a good job, I didn't comment because for some reason, when I try to comment on people's blog site, the sites never like me and half the time don't post my comments, but I can answer ur question.

YES, in my opinion crit groups are necessary, so are'll get great feed back from a judge. Writing is just like anything else in life, u never stop learning and no matter how many times u read ur work and u think u have it down perfect and error free.

I'm here to tell u,,,Uh-uh...doesn't happen, not even with the professionals. It's always best to get another pair of eyes to look at ur work and I'm like Nicki said, if it wasn't for the crit group, I would never have been published. These gals know their stuff.

Everyone helps, no matter how big or how small their crits, or if one can only fin the time to do a crit here and there, each crit helps because no two people see the same mistake....and what u use from each crit only makes ur story stronger.

You have to learn what you can use and what you can't, what will make a difference and toss the rest. It's always ur choice and yes, some people crit harsher than others. Some are kinder, and you do have to grow a thick skin, but you must also realize that the crit isn't a personal attack on you or your work, it's meant to be helpful and given in an effort to get ur work up to snuff and ready for a publisher to accept.

No matter how great a writer thinks he/she is, there's always room for improvement. As an author, who has cringed at times after slaving over what I consider is a beautifully written scene, and I love it, don't want to change it, then discover a crit partner or an editor says cut it, it's too much, it doesn't work, doesn't work for that scene or I simply don't like it (from the editor), you have to be willing to make those changes.

I've clenched my teeth many times and fought against cutting anything from my stories, as you say, it's my baby, it's personal and I like it the way it is. Well guess what, it isn't me I have to please, but my fans, my readers, the ones who buy my work.

I can write my way from now until the cows come home, but if I can't sell it, it's a big waste of time and I've gained nothing but the satisfaction that I did it my way. That won't even buy me a cup of coffee.

So I say, bring on the crits, I can take it, I'm tough.

I might cry and cry harder when I make those damnable changes, but I'll listen and use what I know the rest of the story.


Koko Brown said...

Oh man, critique groups are awesome. Not only are they great for critiquing your work and getting it cleaned up for submittal, but if you have a great group then you're extremely motivated to get moving on your projects. I'm in the same critique group as Ahirah and I will say it's awesome...