Friday, March 12, 2010

Fiction Friday: Critique Groups

The value of critique groups can vary from life-changing to worse than useless.

Why the wide swing? For a critique group to be useful, several things must be true:

1) Some members of the group must be more advanced, or at least have skills more advanced in some key area, than the writer.

2) The members of the group need to read each others' work carefully, thoughtfully and with an open mind.

3) The members of the group need to commit to helping each other succeed.

Several things must also be true for the writer seeking help:

1) The writer has to be willing to admit that his/her writing isn't perfect just the way it is.

2) Conversely, the writer needs to be (or to learn to be) confident enough in his own work to disregard poor advice, or even good advice that takes his work in a direction that is not his vision.

3) The writer must be willing to put as much time into reading other people's work, and critiquing, as he's asking the group to do for him.

I was really fortunate to be in a highly effective critique group that I drafted my first two novels. When I started my third novel last spring, I found it a hard slog. Recently, I joined a writer's workshop (which is like a critique group you pay to be in, which feels a little like paying someone to be your friend, but you do what you have to do) and I'm once again productive.

Last Weeks Winners:

Dedene of Soyez Bienvennue Chez Moi:

There was a lawmaker named John
Who considered poor people a yawn
They demanded health care
And water. And air.
And expect their lives to go on.

Rachel Cotterill of The Thoughts and Travels of Rachel Cotterill:

There was a lawmaker named John
Who considered poor people a yawn
They demanded health care
And water. And air.
Honestly - don't they know that they're born?!


Steven G:

There was a tanned fellow named Boehner
Who thought making laws a no-brainer
So he rented his votes
To the men with bank notes
And replaced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader

And two from Ellie Belen of Distracting Minutia:

There was a lawmaker named John
Who considered poor people a yawn
They demanded health care
And water. And air.
But not until he figures a con.


There was a tanned fellow named Boehner
Who thought making laws a no-brainer
So he rented his votes
To the men with bank notes
Securing a job as a Goldman-Sachs trader.


Next Week's Challenge:

What do you expect when you ask someone to critique your work?

9 comments:

Ocean Girl said...

Funny and wise. Congratulations to all.

I found comments by fellow bloggers as my critique group session. And I enjoyed it so:)

Stacy McKitrick said...

I know what you mean about critique groups. I need help, but I need to know how to give help, too. I'm taking a great class on critiquing, which is helping me see the mistakes I'm making in my own manuscript.

I've critiqued others' work before and never heard back from them. I thought maybe I was too rude or blunt in my comments. Maybe I was (a main reason I'm taking the class). Or maybe they weren't ready to hear any criticism.

Anyway, I joined a critique group on-line (a group that is very active in giving and getting critiques) and once I'm done with the class, I'll feel comfortable submitting my work once I know I can return the favor!

I'm glad you're finding your workshop helpful. I hope my group does the same for me.

Keylocke said...

I'd be your friend, even if you didn't pay me. And I am honored that you are in my circle of early readers. I might stare daggers at you when you suggest my characters have issues but only because you are right.

Of course, now that you are going to absorb everything Robert McKee has to say--I expect an even higher level of critique. But don't expect a raise!

♥ Braja said...

I just leave it to 'whatever'....

:)))

Everyday Goddess said...

It sounds like a great place to be. I haven't considered myself to be a "real" writer yet, so this blogging thing is the closest I get to a writing group.

Fragrant Liar said...

You said it, sister. One other point. Critique groups can be so beneficial, but if everybody in that group focuses only on what's wrong with an ms, and not what's also right with it, it's ultimately destructive to newbies. We more advanced writers need to remember that.

Fun limericks.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Personally? I expect people to be honest, and to do whatever they've agreed to do. I usually know approximately where my weak points are...

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

So how does a critique group help the most advanced writer in the group? Hopefully there are several advanced writers and they all have various strengths.

I really need to find a critique group. I am wrapping up a writing workshop which was helpful but I felt like only one or two others were taking at all as seriously as me.

Maybe I take it all too seriously though. ;)

Frogs in my formula said...

A strong critique group is a blessing. A weak one is infuriating. When life slows down I'd love to find one. Congrats on yours.

As far as what I expect? Not to hear "I liked your story because it reminded me of..." Worst feedback ever.

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