Should You Join A Writers Critique Group?

By on November 20, 2015
Should You Join A Writers Critique Group? - Writer's

Writers often struggle when it comes to sharing their work with others, and the idea of being criticised, mocked or simply people misinterpreting your writing can mean that many end up sitting on their work, refusing to share it with the world in case the reaction is negative. The vision of our peers laughing at us, looming over us and telling us we’ll never be good enough, and we should give up, is enough to make us want to lock our writing away, keep it safe in a lovely bubble of solitary confinement when no one can tell us it isn’t any good.

What we must remember first and foremost is that we are being ridiculous. Should you choose to share your work with your peers most will recognise your bravery, appreciate that exposing yourself in this way is entirely terrifying, and be supportive and constructive in their feedback. Is it better however to simply let the professionals decide? Being rejected by a publisher is one thing, but criticism or suggestion for change may be harder to take if it comes from someone who is simply trying, just as you are, to make their way in the writing world. So should you join a writers critique group, and is it really worth your time and effort? These groups tend to have an ‘everybody is welcome’ policy, providing you are willing to abide by the rules set out for conduct when the group meets (the rules are mostly just about being a decent human being). They give writers and opportunity to share their writing to discuss fears and concerns, to give one another support, tips and advice, and to congratulate on successes.

The advantages of joining a group such as this where age, qualifications, genre of writing, experience and even participation are unrestricted appeal greatly to some writers, and sound horrendous to others. Of course joining a writers critique group provides flexibility - it’s voluntary so you can come and go as you please, and there are usually many to chose form in your area, so you can find one that takes place at a tIme and date that suits you. There is no pressure, you can come along to share a piece of work, to ask a question or to simply observe. Because anyone can join you will benefit from a range of perspectives, meet people who can give you valuable advice, and generally, particularly on newbie writers, people tend to go easy, therefore providing a safe space to explore their writing, get some feedback and experiment.

However on the flip side you do have to remember that these types of writers critique groups are open, so you can’t be sure who will attend each week and therefore quality of discussion and feedback will vary. Numbers will fluctuate and you may not be able to get to know people as well if they are able to simply show up one week and then not the next.

Of course there are some groups that are closed, and the selection is in fact quite picky. If you attend, a certain level of participation is expected, and the meetings tend to be more structured, and opinions more frank. Members of closed groups are likely to be quite dedicated to them. If you do get in, you are likely to be receiving feedback from experienced professionals, however if you are to sensitive these could be dangerous, and if you are refused admission this could damage your confidence before you have even begun.

Virtual writers critique groups can also be helpful. Here you can gain insight and feedback about your writing from members all over the world, some sites offer ranking systems and publishers sometimes take a look at these sites to see if there is anything interesting they may pick up. Joining a virtual group also saves you time as you don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time and date. Often the trouble with virtual critique groups is the lack of care and attention someone will give your work. Also having no face to face interaction means they have no need to be polite!

Crituque groups can be an excellent way of getting valuable feedback on your work, of gaining knowledge about the industry, and meeting likeminded people. However just remember that your job as a writer is to write! So don’t spend all your time talking about it, or agonising over a piece you intend to share with the group, and remember to come prepared for an open discussion about your work where no opinion is ‘wrong’. If you don’t think you can manage that, then perhaps it is best to keep your writing as a solitary pursuit for now.

Bethany Cadman -contributor

Bethany Cadman -contributor

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