“I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.” Woodrow Wilson.
If our presidents can form focus groups, have advisors (which is really just a fancy name for a critique group) and interview people from all walks of life BEFORE they make a speech, draw up a new law or make a decision that will affect all of our lives, we writers ought to be able to turn to our own form of advisors. We’re talking about the advantages of having our own critique group or at least a critique partner to help us with our stories.
As we begin the new year we got to thinking about various reasons for having a critique group or partner and the various ways that those others can help us or already help us with our work. We’ve come up with ten very good reasons to either be in a critique community or have a critique partner. If you don’t find any critique partners or group around you, then maybe you want to go out and form your own critique group.
Here is what we’ve come up with:
1 - It’s another pair of eyes that can catch those little pesky problems such as
• bad word choices
2 - They can provide help when you get stuck by
• suggesting new research resources
• sharing their own personal knowledge
3 - Critique partners and groups can provide help in setting and meeting deadlines
• If you meet once a week and so many pages have to done, deadlines will be met
• Knowing you have to write so many pages this week or next can help you set up a workable writing schedule
4 - They are company on your desert writing island
• Writing can be a lonely occupation, and it helps to “share” your words with another writer and not your mate or family
• They can provide a lift when you are feeling down because they better understand your writing “pain”
5 - They can suggest new ideas for your story
• Brainstorming is one of the major values of having a critique group. Others might think of things that you will never have come up with.
• The group or your partner might offer ways of trying alternatives you were uncertain about.
6 - Boost your ego
• A good critique partner can find the good parts of your work and point them out
• As you critique the work of others you will see places where they might have trouble but where you shine or get a glimpse of things that you constantly do right.
7 - Suggest new twists and turns to your story.
• Some critique partners are great at creating new and exciting plot points.
• Others are extremely helpful in giving you ideas for making your characters come alive.
• Other partners might have a special knack for making emotional passages sing and can help you improve that part of your manuscript.
8 - Give you helpful feedback
• Here is where critique groups shine, as they often see the big picture and can “point” the scene on a better path.
• An honest group or partner will point out the weak spots and perhaps give you ideas for fixing them.
9 - Keep you going.
• They can help you through the dreary times when you don’t want to write something new.
• They can point out the reasons your manuscript deserves to be finished and submitted.
10- Share your vision
• Give your encouragement in order for you to reach your goal
• By sharing their own visions they can help you reach for those stars
But there is also a CAVEAT for writers... caveat scribus. Please remember that all critiquers and critique groups are NOT EQUAL.
• Personalities vary. You will probably need to try several writers and several groups in order to find just the right one
• Level of expertise of the writers can make a difference. It’s always best to have a variety in the group, some beginners and some more advanced.
• Dedication. Be sure your people are truly dedicated to the overall principal that each and every person in the group wants to make whose ever writing they are working on, the very best they can. No egos are allowed.
If you are already in a group or have a great partner, then rejoice! But if not, then you might want to check out options for finding a partner. Local writing groups often have critique opportunities or look around at your local writing group and ask around and see if there are others who might be in the same boat.
Remember the old Polish proverb as it relates to critique groups.
“Two (or more) heads are better than one.”
Let’s get off to a great new year in critiquing! If you have ideas for starting a group or other ideas for why you enjoy having a group or partner, please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you.
Also remember if you have some pages you would like us to critique for the Critique Corner, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.