About three or four years ago, my writing group set out to create a system for sharing and critiquing each other’s work. It was a disaster. Someone gave us an excellent plan to follow and it should have been a breeze. In the corpse-riddled fall-out, a few numbed survivors were left roaming around with blood running down their faces, asking: What did we do wrong? I know the answer now.
The first rule of Critique Club is talk about Critique Club.
One thing we should have asked ourselves before beginning but didn’t, is this: Are we going to be a good match if you put all of us together, or are we going to start tearing off each others’ limbs and eating them when the going gets tough? What I want out of a critique group and what you want, might be vastly different things. I decided I would need to think hard about my personal objectives before trying this again.
My Dog has Genital Warts too
So first, find a group of like-minded people to work with. Second, keep in mind a few more general things, like the importance of making your critique group a priority in you life. It’s success or failure must rest on your shoulders because it is a group and you owe it to the others to be reliable. This, above all else, was the reason for the demise of the first group I joined. Yes, unexpected things come up in life. That’s to be expected. But it irritated the snot out of me if I was reading someone’s work and carrying their story problems around in my head with me while having my teeth cleaned and falling asleep at night, and then that person turned around and told me that they couldn’t read my stuff because they were going through a busy time right now. Guess what. I have kids too, and a sick dog, and a grandmother who needs a ride to the doctor’s office. I’m going through a busy time right now and I will be going through a busy time next month as well. There are bound to be occasions when people genuinely need to take a pass on their critiquing responsibilities, but this should be reserved for emergencies or special situations and it should be handled as considerately as possible. Also, I really need to not have an emergency until after my group has come to trust my loyalty to them. Discourtesy with respect to agreed upon deadlines should be a deal breaker when choosing and participating in a group.
Please Don’t Cry
Another thing of the utmost importance in determining your happiness and satisfaction in a critique group is something you’re not likely to know about ahead of time. Assuming you’ve expressed your opinions sensitively and offered constructive criticism on everyone’s work, none of your fellow members should be getting their feelings hurt. If you have to spend a lot of time soothing egos or apologizing for offering your honest thoughts, your critique group will get old fast. By the same token, don’t be that guy. That guy is a whiner and he’s no fun. If you want someone to read your work and love every single thing about it, don’t join a critique group. Give your stuff to your mom. She thinks you’re fantastic.
Obama Murdered My Writing Group
No diatribes please. I can’t stress this point enough. Do not, under any circumstances, post your political emails on a critique board. Mixing personal agendas with a critique group is like dropping Mentos into Pepsi. There will be an explosion. A critique group is not the place to trigger debates by posting unrelated controversial topics. We’re all writers and it’s hard enough to find the time we need for that. When contention springs up over non-writing matters, it wastes everyone’s time. If you’re considering joining a critique group on line, ask to see some sample posts. My new group has set up their board with a place for posting and responding to each other’s work. No off-topic chatter goes on there. We’ve since added a section where people can share publishing news a separate section for general discussions. If a member chooses to drop in at either of these places, that’s something extra. We do not share email forwards anywhere and we probably like each other a lot more because of that.
Why Waste Time on Messy Bargain Brands
If you’ve looked around and can’t find a group that meets your needs, consider starting your own. That’s what we did. I knew of two other people in search of the same things that I was after; one being an editor I’d worked with in the past, the other being a fellow member of the organization that started the failed critique group I’ve mentioned here. I have never met these two people in person but we’d been swapping writing news and reading each other’s work for years. I knew them to be professional, trustworthy, and capable of offering intuitive advice. We discussed our hopes up front and organized our system accordingly. We also carefully considered all of the above factors. We have since added a fourth person who enhances us greatly. It’s been a dream come true.