One resounding thing I've heard over and over in the writing world is "You must get a critique group!" It's usually said forcefully, but with a pleasant smile. Inside they're saying, "Get a critique group or FAIL!"
|By Alice, clker.com|
Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic.
At conferences, conventions, and workshops, I repeatedly hear that writers need a critique group, that a critique group can help you get your manuscript ready for submission. Some people swear by them, with thanks to critique groups showing up in the front of books.
However, there's also an outspoken contingent who say critique groups can ruin your book, or possibly your self-esteem as a writer. That it's poison to go into a group and deal with people who rip your work apart. Some cite groups they've gone into where there was at least one really nasty person who did nothing but criticize, never giving construction criticism, just nastiness.
I've witnessed several panels where an argument has ensued over whether or not you should join a critique group.
|By OCAL, clker.com|
On the other hand, if you feel there's nothing to fix, that it really wouldn't matter what they're going to say to you, skip it. You won't be open to what anyone is saying, anyway, so this isn't an option for you. In order to get anything out of a critique group, you must be open to hearing what other people have to say.
There's another reason not to do it, as well, though, which comes up on the opposite side. If you will be too open, if you'll take everything they say and think you need to make those changes, you should probably avoid it, as well. I feel like you have to have some confidence in your story to be able to get it critiqued. Of course, that's true for submitting it, too. If you have no confidence, you could end up tearing apart your story while stressing yourself out and questioning your ability to write, all because you couldn't pick out the useful feedback from the white noise.
I'm not saying it's easy. I'm starting over on a book that very nearly became a trunk book, all because I took everything to heart that was said in critiques. When I couldn't reconcile my opinion with several mixed opinions, all of which differed from each other on various aspects of the story, I gave up.
|By OCAL, clker.com|
Once you decide whether a critique group is for you, you've got to hunt one down. If you have some writer friends whose opinions you trust, see if they're interested in starting a critique group. They don't have to be local; you can email the critiques. We like to meet in person, but I think that's because we enjoy the social aspect of it, as well.
If you don't have writer friends you'd like to start a critique group with, you can check into local writer's groups. Go to meetings they offer and meet other writers. Check on their website, any forums they may have, etc., and see if they have any critique groups or if they have a mechanism with which to hook you up with any.
If that fails, start searching online. There are Meetup groups you might be able to find online by plugging in your location. Search for forums or online critique websites. There are some websites dedicated to allowing online critiques, but you must earn them by giving critiques first and maintaining a certain amount of points.
Once you've found or created your critique group, figure out the group's rules and get started! How are you expected to submit? What does the critique consist of (flow, grammar, answering specific questions, numerical judging, etc.)? How long will you have to do the critique? When do you need to get your piece in by? Will you email it or meet in person? If you're meeting in person, will you get the piece in advance to go over and make notes on so you can come prepared to the meeting? How many words/chapters will you submit at a time? How often will you critique?
Getting these and other questions hammered out in advance will make your life easier as you go into the critique group world.
Tell me about your experiences with critiques. Are you strongly on one side or the other (pro or con)? Have you had any especially nasty experiences in critique group? Any wonderful ones?
May you find your Muse.