critique groups before. But now, thanks to my recent epiphany, I have something new to say:
I need to be in a critique group.
Not exactly an earth-shattering epiphany, right?
After all, if asked, most writers would agree that a critique group is necessary. And most of the time, we strive to find critique groups or a critique partner. But occasionally, we give up on our groups when we encounter problems, or members move away, or plain, old laziness creeps in.
Maybe, like me, you’re going through a “critique groupless” stage, thinking you’ll be fine without a group. You’re a fairly disciplined writer and you’ve been at this business for a long while. You figure that your writing will take care of itself.
And if I’m being honest, much of my writing continued without any bumps. But my fiction writing…well, as we writers say, that was whole ‘nother story.
Without feedback, without accountability on the table, my fiction writing sort of drifted. What I judged to be mighty fine had little blips here and there. Though how was I supposed to know? No one but me was reading it.
Still, when a friend asked me to join her critique group, I demurred. I’d been in a group for three years and wasn’t sure I was ready for the monthly grind of reading other writers’ work, providing editing notes, taking time from my own work…believe me, I had a whole list of excuses. Maybe you do, too.
But I agreed to give a critique group another go, just to be polite, really. And the week before my first meeting, I remembered something sort of earth shattering, writing-wise:
When I have to get a manuscript ready for my peers, I work harder.
I think more about the writing craft, about the use of each word, about the plotting and the setting and the tone of the story. I step back with a more critical eye and wonder what the writers in my group will think when they read my paragraphs, my chapters. Is my title strong or tired? Is my concept unique or same old, same old? I think of the whys behind my writing, and I work a little harder to impress that room full of gifted writers.
So I need to be in a critique group. I need to feel that nervousness before someone reads my words. I need that feeling of triumph when a group of writers says, “Well done.” And if that same group of writers says, “I don’t get this part,” then I need to feel that push to keep at it until they do get that part.
Maybe you’re having your own epiphany right now, realizing that consistent accountability might be the way to better writing.
And maybe, like me, you’ll get yourself back to a critique group.
~Cathy C. Hall