Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thoughts on Writing: Critique Groups

If someone asked me to name the factor that has affected my writing most, hands down it would be belonging to a good critique group.

Over the years I've belonged to several groups and I've benefitted from each one in some way. Belonging to a good critique group has helped me become a better writer and has helped me get published, but most of all, I've made life-long friends.

During the day on New Year's Eve, Bill Mueller, a member of our weekly group, received a phone call from an editor at Writer's Digest. A story Bill read at critique group last year won second place out of more than 1700 entries in the crime fiction short story contest. Bill is an award-winning and accomplished writer whose work needs little improvement. When he read his story--I believe in two sessions--it was about 99-percent there. Our group made minimal suggestions. In the WD contest, Bill won big bucks, several books, and recognition on the WD website and in their magazine. How's that for a critique group success story?

If you're wondering what this Christmas-day photo below of my grandkiddos--who are about to take a ride on my brother's tandem bike--has to do with belonging to a critique group, here's what: 

Both involve teamwork and trust.
Someone has to take the lead. While critique group members can help, the writer is in control.
Like a first draft, you need to take a test drive before you start.
A bad partner (or group) can mess you up.
A good partner (or group) can help you get to your destination quicker and safely.
When you fall, you have someone to pick you up.
When you get to the finish line, you have someone to cheer you.
It's fun!

If anyone has thoughts on the benefits of a good critique group, please share them in the comments. I'd love to hear them.


  1. Only that I miss being in one!

    Critter Alley

  2. I agree with Pat. I long for someone to criticize me. That's why I joined the local writer's group. The one where nobody but me and the leader showed up at the meeting. :( But I suppose everything happens for a reason, and someday I will find my critics.

  3. Hi Val,
    That stinks. Maybe the Missouri Writers Guild has members from your area in a critique group?
    I hope you find some critics soon. ;-)

  4. Hi Donna! I totally agree, and of course it's great belonging to the same critique group with you. Being among writers, who are now friends, and listening and learning is a wonderful thing to behold! I'm a much better writer than I was before I joined the group....about 2 years ago? I think. I, too, wish ALL writers were in a really great critique group.....telling it like it is, yet always in a "nice" way! :)

  5. That's wonderful for your friend Bill!!! I love your guidelines for the critique groups - I think the thing that has scared me off is the bad critique partner that messes you up ... In a way I have an informal one that consists of my early readers whose job is to tell it to me straight - they're not all writers, but they all love to read!

  6. Such a positive and encouraging post! I am in Pat and Val's camp.Sometimes it is not easy to find people you are really in sync with, that are a true help. But the field doesn't get plowed by complaining about the mule. One has to follow and hope the critter knows where he leads. We just keep trying critics on for size hoping we can till the soil of writing/publishing! Thanks for keeping us on the path!

  7. Hi Becky,
    We do have a fun group, and manage to get a lot done.

    Hi Melissa,
    I think early readers serve the same purpose as a ctiritue group, and I agree that a bad critique can mess you up.

    Hi Claudia,

    I LOVE your metaphors about the field not getting plowed by complaining about the mule and tillling the soil of writing/publishing.

    Hope you find the right group.


  8. Donna, I so agree! I'm fortunate to be part of a small group of writers that I admire and trust. We call ourselves the Inklets. :) My writing has improved tremendously thanks to their insights.

  9. Hi Lisa,
    What a great name for a group. I'm happy your group has been such a help.

  10. A critique group is a strong tool in the writer's box. Having a good one is a treasure. Finding a good one is a quest. I'm on a roll here . . .

  11. Donna--First, what great looking kids. I know you are a proud Oma.

    Secondly, I love how you tied writing critique groups with your grandkids.

    I think one of the most valuable things I get from a group is the push to write. If you meet every week or every other week, you're writing regularly because you feel "accountable" to the other members. I think you also submit more, because your friends want to hear what is happening with the story they critiqued.

    You are fortunate to be in a group that has so many talented and generous writers.

  12. Hi Sally,
    You are on a roll! Thanks for your comments.

    Hi Sioux,
    Thanks. My grandkids are the light of my life, and they keep me on my toes.

    You are so right about critique groups giving a push to write and making you accountable. I've read good things about the group you are in, and from the successes of the members, your group is doing it right (or is it write?).


  13. Hi Donna!

    I love how you worked that tandem bike AND the kids into your post on critique-brilliant! Plus, you made some excellent points about critique. Did you mention that a good critique group can get behind you and make you push (because you don't want to show up at your meeting with just a smile)?

    The Inklets (yep, that's my group) keep me working!

    (And P.S. BIG congrats on all your success in 2011, and hoping for more of the same for you in 2012! AND I love how you're always keeping things fresh -and snowy-here at the pub!)

  14. I've belonged to several excellent critique groups and a few that weren't so good. Right now, I have two critique partners and a couple of beta readers. I think we need different things at different times in our writing.

  15. A critique group adds that extra flavor to your masterpiece. Sometimes its just a little nudge that sends your story in the right direction. Love the helpful critiques and love the group!

  16. A critique group adds that extra flavor to your masterpiece. Sometimes its just a little nudge that sends your story in the right direction. Love the helpful critiques and love the group!

  17. Hi Cathy,
    Your comment that a good critique group can get behind you and make you push is brilliant!
    Love the name of your Inklets group. It sounds like a fun, yet focused group.

    Hi Carol,
    That's true. Change is ever present.

    Hi Alice,
    If this is our Alice; you are a fantastic critique group member. No one can match your fastest pen in the room or eye for copy editing.


  18. Love this comparison! I think a group, or at least a few trusted friends, can help make all the difference. Thanks for sharing Bill's story. Talk about encouragement! :)

  19. Hi Karen,
    You're right. A few trusted friends can make the difference.

  20. Such a cute picture of your grandkids, Donna!

  21. Great post. Love the pic of your grandkids! And I'm relatively new in a critique group, but I can see improvement already!

  22. A critique group is how I got started writing, when a friend wanted to start one and asked me to join. Several of us had never written seriously before and it was wonderful. Unfortunately several had major life changes and the group splintered. We have been on hiatus for a couple of months but are starting back in February with a new approach and hopefully it will grow into something new and wonderful.

    1. Hi Sheila,
      Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to your post. I thought I had, then re-reading my replies, I found it didn't take.
      Anyway, I hope your new approach will be the push you need.

  23. Hi Lynn,
    Thanks. I'm glad your new critique group is working out.

    Hi Sheila,
    Welcome, and thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear your critique group splintered, but hope it gets back into swing soon.


  24. CCMWG has a critique group and it got me started, but now I belong to an online group that exchanges work each month. I know one of the members, but have never met the other three.

    By the way, Donna, your name was mentioned a few times Sunday at CCMWG when we announced the winners of our Well Versed contest. My goal is to send the official letters within the next two weeks!

  25. Hi Linda,
    I had hoped to make it to Columbia yesterday, but wasn't able to.
    I look forward to finding out the results of the contest.


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