Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Critique Group Challenges

A good critique partner? Hmm.
I’ve released a new book on the craft of writing, called You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. To celebrate the release, I’m sharing a excerpt from the chapter on Critiques. First I shared the intro to the chapter and advice on getting feedback from family and friends. Last week I discussed some basics about critique groups. Today I'm sharing some challenges to watch out for in your critique group.

Critique Group Challenges

Critique groups can be great. A good one can shorten your journey to publication by years. At their best, these groups are both a source of emotional support and a way to get thoughtful, detailed suggestions about your writing. If you have a supportive and helpful group, remember to say thank you (perhaps with hugs and chocolates).

Unfortunately, not every group is this wonderful. Some start well but fizzle out quickly, because not all members are committed. Others have trouble establishing a regular meeting time, although online groups can bring people together when they don’t live in the same area.

Cozy critiquing
Beginning writers in particular may find it hard to join a serious, experienced critique group. Often the most accomplished writers want to work with other professionals, and established groups may be closed to new members. Still, you may be able to join or start a group with other beginning or intermediate writers. You can learn together and encourage each other. Some groups have started with all new writers and several years later had every member published.

In the worst case, a bad group, or even one bad person in a group, can be discouraging, even soul-crushing. Watch out for problems and act quickly to protect yourself. This could mean leaving the group, starting a splinter group with some members, or setting up new rules for the current members.

Individual writers have different levels of sensitivity. If you find any critical comment horrifying, the problem may lie with you, and you’ll need to either develop thicker skin, or write for your own enjoyment but not expect anyone else to publish or review your work.

On the other hand, if you’re normally open to suggestions but a particular critique partner leaves you feeling like you never want to write again, you may need to end that relationship. If you have a good group except for one problem person, you might discuss the issue with other members of the group. Do you think the person might respond to a direct request for a change in behavior? If not, maybe that person could be politely informed that they are not a good fit for the group. Or you could disband the group and start a new one without telling them. If you don’t take some action, the group will fall apart and you’ll lose everyone.

Have you run into these problems in a critique group?

Next week I'll discuss some of the particular problem characters who can show up in a critique group. The following weeks will provide advice on taking classes and hiring a professional editor.

You can get this whole essay, and a lot more – including a chapter on Advanced Critique Questions – in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. In this book, you will learn:

How to explore the wide variety of age ranges, genres, and styles in writing stories, articles and books for young people.
How to find ideas.
How to develop an idea into a story, article, or book.
The basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme.
How to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts.
How to edit your work and get critiques.
Where to learn more on various subjects.

Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.
Sign up for Chris’s Workshop Newsletter for classes and critique offers.

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