Critique groups and critique partners are two different things. Each group, each person, has their own personality, their own set of pros and cons. I’ve been in terribad critique groups that actually sucked the life out of my writing (and out of me) and I’ve been in fantastic groups that inspired me to write and kept me constantly striving for improvement.
The most recent group I was in was a good one, and we used to meet in a local bar that had a popcorn machine. Like, a big popcorn machine, the type you see at movie theaters. Best of all, the popcorn was free so we’d meet for critiques and totally nom on the popcorn while we were there. It was a good group, small, (only four of us) but friendly and positive. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with small groups, if even one person’s schedule gets changed you’re kinda screwed. That’s what happened to us, but though we no longer meet up weekly to critique each other’s work, we do get together occasionally just to talk, vent and hang out with a friend who knows what we’re going through in our writerly life.
Even without my group I still occasionally (okay, nearly always) want someone else to look over my work, to help me see the warts I’ve missed and polish up the pretty bits until they shine. On those cases I turn to my critique partners. I’ve had several over the years, and I’ve even paid for critiques (via charity auction) from some writers or editor’s whose opinions I respect.
I’ve received awesome critiques from a lot of people, I don’t want to start naming them because I’m sure to forget someone, just know that the list is long and filled with awesome. The #1 person I have turned to when I needed a critique over the past several years though, has been BD Wilson. We met in a critique group a few years ago and despite a bit of a rocky start (I certainly didn’t accidentally spoil a movie for her or anything, nope nope) we’ve become good friends. In our critique group we called her The Sledgehammer because that’s about how subtle her critiques are — but they are GOOD critiques. I’ve always envied how good her critiques are. Really. She has a skill, a way of figuring out what’s wrong with a story, and showing you in such a way that you can’t miss it, and you can usually figure out how to fix it. She’s made an awful lot of work for me over the years, rewriting, revising, totally scrapping things and trying them another way, but in the process she’s also helped to make me a better writer, and my stories far better than they would be without her.
Thank you, BD 🙂
The other fantastic person who regularily reads over my work and offers valuable feedback is Lauren. Lauren and I meet once a month to hang out, eat deep fried pickles (Okay, so maybe that part is all me, but zomg, so good!) and critique each other’s work. Honestly, even without the critiquing I would look forward to our meetings, because she’s a friend and a fellow writer, and as any writer can tell you, there is something incredibly energizing about hanging out with another writer. The whole “they understand you like non-writers can’t” thing is a little trite, and perhaps overblown, but it’s based in truth. Adding the wonderful social element to valuable critique though makes it a wonderful thing. Lauren doesn’t actually read the genres I write in (except for my work, of course) and I’ve come to find that is a huge, huge asset come critique time. She’s not just going to accept something I’ve written because ‘that’s how it works in fantasy books’ or ‘well, it’s a zombie, so um, yeah?’. It helps me to not only craft better stories, but to become a stronger writer too.
Thank you, Lauren 🙂
Do you have a favourite critique partner? What is it about their feedback that really helps you? Do you send them work as you’re going, or only when it’s complete?
I used to submit parts of works-in-progress to my critique group, but I quickly discovered that, for me, that was a very bad idea, but at least one member of our group used our feedback as we critiqued each of her chapters, to help her mold what was going to come next in the story.
Different approaches to critiquing and critique groups as a whole are interesting to me, I’d honestly like to hear about yours. Good or bad LOL
This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge over the month of April and was brought to you by the letter C. Please pop by tomorrow when I’ll be talking about a super cheerful subject. D is for Depression. Wheee!
*The image I used in this blog post was taken by BD Wilson. I think that’s even a crit she did of one of my stories right there 😉