What Every Writer Needs

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Writers write.  It's what we do.  Unfortunately, we don’t always judge our own writing accurately even when its good. 

Does that surprise you?  We are used to being told that we need help identifying the weaknesses in our writing.  Sometimes we need just as much help identifying the strengths.

For about two months, I’ve been playing around with a rewrite.  I’ll work on it a bit and then set it aside because it hasn’t jelled. Every now and again, I figure out a problem and get some writing done, but after two months I have 10 pages.  Ten.  Can you say discouraged

Fortunately, I had a critique group meeting last weekend.  This was the perfect chance to trot out my problem manuscript.  These writing friends would be able to point out a few more problems for me to fix, but they would also commiserate.  Or so I thought.  

They refused.

That’s right.  Refused.  

They actually had the nerve to tell me that the voice was good.  And they love the premise.  They are even cool with the fact that my fantasy world is much like ours, but skewed just a bit.  And my all new antagonist?  They adore her, but in a bad way of course.  Not that it was all good news; they pointed out plenty of places that need repair and I expected that.  What I didn’t expect was the good news.  Apparently, I’d done something right even though I was too frustrated to see it.

Every writer needs a critique group. 

A critique group doesn’t just tell you what you’ve done wrong.  They also point out what you’ve done right.  They bring the perspective that you lack when you are too close to your work.  And they keep you going through the hard work.  I mean the actual writing part; my initial ideas have a tendency to be brilliant.  It's getting it down on paper that proves frustrating. 

I’d like to give you a nudge.  If you don’t have a critique group, now is a good time to find one.  I connected with the writers in my critique group at a variety of writers conferences and workshops.  I’ve also been in groups that were strictly online.  These worked well when I was a grad student and later when I was the mother of a toddler.  

Finding a compatible group can take some work, but it is well worth the effort. Not only will you have a group of writers to help you fix your mistakes, they’ll point out what you did right.  And that’s something you need in your writing life – fellow writers who will pat you on the back, hand you a good cup of coffee, and nudge you back toward your desk.  

Speaking of which, I had better get going.  I have a story to write. 


Find out more about Sue's writing on her blog, One Writer's Journey


Sioux Roslawski said...

SueBE--I belong to a marvelous critique group (the best, I claim). We call ourselves the WWWPs--the Wild Women Wielding Pens--and we DO get wild at times. Bawdy. Rowdy. Silly. But we also get insistent (prodding, encouraging) and focused (figuring out how to problem-solve some fine-tuning points or how to strengthen an already-great piece).

I agree. Every writer needs a critique group if they're serious about their craft. Not only does it keep them writing regularly, it keeps them walking the writers' walk and keeps them talking the writers' talk.

Stephanie Bearce said...

A good critique group is better than dark chocolate. And that's saying something! And our group is better than dark chocolate and wine! Yes - other writers should be jealous. Everybody - get in a group and WRITE!

Marcia Peterson said...

Sounds like you've got a good group! I like that you mentioned some ways to get a group together.

Anonymous said...

Funny! I had no idea Sue was expecting sympathy and commiseration. Things really were working well!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I was just thinking about this the other day. I'm on the lookout for a new critique group. My old one has grown too big and unfocused. If anyone is in the LBC area, hit me up!

Anonymous said...

For those who haven't guessed, Stephanie and Kristin are both in my group. I very seldom tell anyone what help I need when I give them a ms, because I don't want to bias their responses.

I really would like to encourage everyone to find a group. Yes, the critiques are helpful, but so is the general support. Non-writing spouses can be supportive, but no one "gets it" like a fellow writer.


Margo Dill said...

I love my group! We call ourselves the Lit Ladies. :) And we critique each other all the time, but we also added two writing retreats--one weekend and one all-day--to our year, too. I have belonged to different critique groups throughout the years and I am telling you a writer DOES need one.

Unknown said...

I totally concur, though finding the right group can be hard and for some, taking the criticism given can be even harder.

I am currently with a fantastic group and will not be leaving anytime soon, though I am considering joining another group, because being beaten up once a month just isn't enough for me ;p

BECKY said...

Ditto, ditto, and ditto!

Mel Kinnel (@TizMellyMel) said...

I love your post because I tend to think one-sided when in comes to critique partners. The side where they tell you everything wrong with your piece. This gives me a different perspective.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Thanks for the words of wisdom. It's sometimes hard to be encouraged about a WIP.

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