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Critique Groups: Worth the Pain?

I’m working on my tenth novel, the beginning of a new series. Yesterday I endured a critique of my chapters 4 – 7 from my critique group, comprising two other mystery authors and myself. We meet once a month. I use the word “endured” in humor but sometimes critiques can be hard to take.

I’ll never forget the evening one member of another group roared at me, “These are nothing but talking heads!” He was right. Rewriting the scene to include action, gestures, and descriptions improved it 100 percent.

The critiques can be harsh and painful, but that’s how you grow as a writer. Each rewrite brings your piece closer to an agent or publisher.

The way to survive these critiques is to listen quietly, use the valid comments, and remind yourself that you are a competent writer and you need these comments. Every good writer goes through massive amounts of editing. If done right, the comments will include positive ones as well as the negatives. We can all hope for that.

I was in one critique group where a budding writer took offense and became vindictive. She was a bright young woman, and I suppose she had never been criticized before. In a move for revenge against a particular member of the group, she tore that person’s writing apart sentence by sentence. Don’t do that.

Most of her comments could easily be ignored as nonsensical. She left the group after that evening.

Critique groups are also friends who can help you celebrate when you finish a novel and, glory be, when you get an agent or publisher.


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