Sunday, May 15, 2011

Critique Groups: Why?

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow writer (Sarah Allen @ today about critique groups. She works in different ways than I do as a writer, but we both agreed that there is value in critique groups.
I've come up with a few things for the Why, how, where, who, and when on critique groups. Today is the Why?

Why have a critique group?
Almost every author will tell you that having a critique group helped them become better writers.
Carol Lynch Williams and Ann Dee Ellis @ are involved in a critique group with some other fantastic writers, and it helps them catch little things in their manuscripts that they can't do on their own.

It's hard to see the flaws in your own manuscript, especially after you've worked on it for so long and gone through dozens of drafts. It helps to have a new set of eyes on your words to help with anything from huge plot structure problems to placements of commas and periods.

Not only is a critique group a chance for you to get your stuff workshopped, but it also gives you a chance to see what other people are writing and to learn how to receive feedback as you give it.

A great aspect of critique groups is the motivation factor. Sometimes it's hard to get to work. It's hard to finish a chapter or a whole novel. A critique group could be your reason to meet your deadlines. They'll help push you to be great just like a piano teacher or a track coach or the director of a play. Your group members will keep tabs on you and ask you where you're at in your writing. And you'll do the same for them.

Most people enjoy a sense of community at least on some level. A critique group will give you a small community where you can share what you love with others who love the same things. They'll support you, love you, and cheer for you all along the way in your process towards publication.

If you have a critique group, tell us why you think it's a good idea to have one. If you don't maybe you should think about getting one, or tell us why you don't want one.


  1. Critique groups can be VERY helpful, if you have good people. Even then, Brandon Sanderson says you'll usually need to throw away about 2/3 of what your group tells you. Different opinions, different ideas for the story. But they're very helpful. I've had many a flaw pointed out to me by groups and readers that I never would have noticed on my own. I've also had friends point things out to me that make me think, "What, are you an idiot?" :D

    It's way nicer to have a writing group that's nearby--my last one I had to drive to Provo for! (So if you ever move to SLC, let me know ^_~)

  2. Actually, Chuck, I'm living in SLC for this summer. I might be joining this group in Herriman because they posted on the utahchildrenswriting email server thing... Maybe you could join us, or we could even start our own group :) What do you write?

  3. Great article. I love my critique group. ANWA. They have a chapter in SLC and it's only $20 a year to join. Great online critique and social groups as well. All LDS women writers. They've been invaluable!

  4. My critique group is terrific! I agree with everything you said, in particular about being part of a writing community. In addition to helping me see the flaws in my writing, my group helps me see which aspects of my writing are working. Sometimes that's even harder to see on my own!

    Not every group works for every writer. If the first group you join isn't clicking with you (after giving it a fair chance), politely bow out and then try another one.

  5. One time an editor told me that it doesn't matter how good of a writer you are, you can always get better. That's where a good crit group comes in. Nice blog.

  6. You are? Really? Where in SLC?

    I don't know--I don't do children's. I do adult fantasy . . .

  7. Thanks everyone! I really appreciate your comments :)

    @Betsy, maybe you can let me know your opinions on memberships or other types of groups that cost money vs. other kinds for my "where" section.

    @CNHOlmberg, email me at and we can chat more :)

  8. @ Lana, I'd love to have more details on when is appropriate to leave a critique group and how to find one that fits your personal needs/how to figure out what your own needs are.