Critique Groups… Yes or no?

So, I just joined my first critique group – Critique Circle – I have my first piece of writing up for critique at the moment and am waiting anxiously to hear what people have to say.

Which got me thinking… how important are critique groups to you? I’ve never been a part of one before and while I like the concept, I’m nervous about putting too much of my work on display in a public domain.

What do you guys think of critique groups? And do you have any recommendations for some excellent ones that you belong to?

And even more importantly… I’d love to get to know some fellow aspiring writers. Is anyone interested in becoming writing/critique buddies?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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50 Responses to Critique Groups… Yes or no?

  1. elletodd says:

    That poster is AWESOME! Writing is an incredibly personal form of expression. To have your story ripped apart is hard. It can be embarrassing. I hate to say this, but it’s also terribly, terribly important.
    I never participated in a critique group, but I always wanted to. Good for you, and good luck in your writing!

    Like

    • jodiellewellyn says:

      I kind of want my work ripped apart… hehe.

      Like

      • I’ve come to rely on critique groups to the point that I’d hate to live without them. Of course it’s important for a writer to find not criticism, but useful critique. There’s a *big* difference. One is destructive “this is why this piece will never be published/you shouldn’t quit your day job/you’ll never succeed unless you first get divorced”, etc. The other is like dressing up for your first high school dance and having a cousin who happens to be a beautician come over and do your makeup and hair, and advise you on choosing the right accessories.

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  2. simondewar says:

    110% they’re invaluable. Everyone looks at the same story and sees it differently. You’ll find out that in your critique group everyone will be fine with some aspect and some person JUST WONT GET IT… or, alternatively, everyone will overlook something and one person will come out and say “uhh.. that doesnt really work, and here is why”. Some people who read your stuff will be concerned with plot holes and narrative consistency, others who read it will be less hard on those aspects and more concerned with “was the sex scene too steamy or not” or they’ll be thinking things like “was the scary part scary enough? did she need to turn the frighteners up a bit more in this particular scene or foreshadow this event a bit more previously so that when the scary scene happens it has full effect for the reader”. Some readers will also find every single little grammatical mistake you make and beat you like a red headed stepchild about them.

    My only real criticism about crit groups is that, some people just arent good at it, or because everyone has only a short time to speak, they dont go into enough detail. These days, I’ve found some friends online, via writing courses or twitter etc, and I generally send a story out to these specific individuals via email for a beta read. I prefer this method because I can choose the people who I know crit well, are competent grammar-wise, and have the appopriate exposure to the genre I write in. it can be hard being in a crit group of scifi writers/readers if you’re a horror writer – often times they dont have much of an understanding of horror tropes or prose level methods of generating tension/horror or what works or does not in the horror genre.

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  3. simondewar says:

    oh, just realise your critique circle is online. You should be fine then. People can go into more depth when stuff is online and you’re not literally sitting face to face in a room with 10 other people

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  4. Jay Dee says:

    I’m a member of Critique Circle. I find it very useful, actually. I haven’t had much on there before, but I enjoy reading the feedback I receive, and it’s usually very good. Everyone else there is in the same situation, they receive feedback as well. I found you on CC and sent you a message.

    Like

  5. Daniel says:

    I’ve tried one on line crit group, and overall it was a good experience. What I think you’ll fine is that there are many who are just starting out, so you might want to think of them as beta readers, and look for the more polished writers for more editorial comments. Ultimately, you’ll need to develop relationships with other writers to exchange and really get under the nails of the flaws and structural errors of a novel. I’ve managed to find a couple, but am always interested in other views.

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  6. Time is the main thing that keeps me away from critique groups. I thought about Critique Circle several times. Is it good?

    Like

  7. Harry Heckel says:

    This is a really good question. I completely believe that having others give you feedback is invaluable, but you have to keep the source in mind. I try to give critiques fair consideration, but I also remind myself that everyone has different opinions. I have a circle of beta readers and I feel like I couldn’t get anything published without them. I love the bikini onstage analogy. 🙂

    Like

  8. Let me know what you think.. I’m curious of others experience with the circle. I’ve had excellent fun critiquing work, however I make a point to bring one negative statement for each positive, and visa versa… Not sure if others do the same or not since I haven’t submitted anything through there yet..

    Like

  9. gipsika says:

    Yes! Critique is the most important thing that can ever happen to your writing.

    How old is this aspiring writer? Would you be interested in this website? We’re looking for young writers.

    Like

  10. dgabre says:

    I definitely think Critique groups are great. We call them ‘workshops’ at my university. At the start they’re not always the best – people are either wanting to be nice or don’t feel comfortable speaking up yet, but in the one I’m in now, we’ve all been doing our MFAs and are in our second year, so everyone is really perceptive – and getting that kind of detailed response to your work is invaluable. Of course there will be people who are harder to get along with and sometimes it’s not as easy to find an ideal group. It’s amazing how much you can learn from critiquing someone else’s piece as well.

    Like

  11. eriklehman says:

    A while back, after a few years of writing, I did an experiment with a critique group. See, I posted a few pages from an award-winning novel, anonymously. The critique group came back with terrible reviews, they tore it apart. So I did the same experiment with other groups. Same deal. After that, I talked to my agent at a conference, who said that most critique groups have no idea what fiction writing is all about, all they want is a quick-fix, to be entertained in a paragraph, There are some good reviews, but then there are those who go out of their way to degrade the author, no matter who the author happens to be. So, in conclusion I will just say; beware of critique groups, and do not take everything they say to heart,for that can ruin your confidence. Keep writing. Let the agents do the critiquing when you get to that point. That’s just my opinion. Great post.

    Like

  12. Joe Brewer says:

    Being in the right group makes all the difference – people who you trust, who know what they are talking about, and don’t leave you feeling like you’ve been shredded into a million pieces.
    Good luck!

    Like

  13. I can’t do critique groups – tried once – because I lack the energy to keep other people’s work in my head. It’s hard enough keeping my own going.

    For normal people they may be good, bad, or indifferent – depends on the group, the methods, and the quality of the writing of the participants.

    Don’t stay if you ever feel belittled. And make sure your basics – punctuation, spelling, apostrophes, … – are solid (your blog looks good). You don’t really want people pointing out that you used effect when you really mean affect, or need to learn there/their/they’re. Those are things you should have down on your own – they matter.

    You want people to point out three things: what sections they like, which sections they hate, and where they were confused. The last is the most important. You don’t want readers – who rarely give feedback – confused. The rest is taste.

    There are lots of good books on writing – learn everything you can from books. Then use live humans for the intangibles, things like flow and characterization and whether your plot is properly motivated. Don’t waste live humans on things machines or books could do. Unless you have lots of money and are paying said live humans well.

    Good luck! Please report back on your blog how the experience goes, what worked and what didn’t.

    Like

    • jodiellewellyn says:

      Yeah very true. I think critique groups are good for picking up things you miss. But I’ll take everything else with a grain of salt 🙂

      Like

  14. elleclouse says:

    I’ve been a member of a couple critique groups. It really helped when I was new to writing but it for some reason always boiled down to a copy edit and not a true critique. I did a lot of research on my own and read a lot of books and that helped me hone my craft. Now, I have a handful of writing friends who read my work and vice versa but it took me years to cultivate my own critique group.

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  15. I just went to critique group tonight. All of them had a couple of good suggestions. There are always a few ideas I don’t like too. The old saying is to take what works and leave the rest.

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  16. alexraphael says:

    Interesting question. it depends how much confidene you have in different aspects of your writing and how much you feel they get your work. I have been to two different classes and in some cases it really helped, whereas in others it felt a waste.

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  17. verawrites says:

    Hi Jodie, thanks for visiting my blog. I admire you for pursuing your passion to write. You’ll find your voice – just keep at it. I’m part of an online group that writes weekly stories that others in the group critique. I’ve learned a lot. I agree with most but not all suggestions – it’s part of the process of growing as a writer.

    I had veered from fiction into creative non-fiction so it’s fun trying fiction and the group is very supportive.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of chemistry, finding the right group of writers.

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  18. I have had a very positive experience so far. I made a blog post concerning how to find, assess, and work within a critique group.

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  19. Yes- getting critiques is a must… Find a group who is well-read and who can give you serious, constructive criticism.
    Daniel

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  20. lubkin2013 says:

    Best site I joined was youwriteon.com

    Like

  21. Hey – thanks for this – really useful – I’m in an offline critique group but wasn’t aware that there were online groups such as this. TDx

    Like

  22. Judith Post says:

    I belong to a local critique group, the Summit City Scribes. We don’t have any officers or dues and try to keep it simple. 3 people sign up to read for each meeting. Each gets 15 minutes, and then we go around the table to critique their work. Sometimes, 5 members show up and sometimes, close to 20. We say what we like about the work and what we think could be better. All in all, we try to be very positive, but some readers never return. We learn a lot from each other, though. An online group might be more anonymous, I don’t know. I’ve never tried that. Most of the people in our group break into smaller groups to trade entire manuscripts. Three friends critique my pages, and I critique theirs. I’ve learned a lot from the big and small groups, but you have to have a tough skin, even for positive feedback.

    Like

    • 20 members sounds unmanageable but if it’s working fine. We’ve splintered because of over attendance. With the few bad encounters posted in this thread, I give thanks for my group. There’s a section on my blog concerning critique groups dealing with “tough skin” as well.

      Like

      • Judith Post says:

        We rarely have 20. I’m glad. It takes too long to go around the table, but it’s nice to see everyone when they show up. Writing is so personal and private, it’s hard to share it and get feedback–even when I want it. I’ve learned to nod and say ‘thank you’, take my notes, and read them in a day or 2. I’m more objective then.

        Like

  23. rlsharpe says:

    Hi Jodie, I’m from Australia too 🙂 I’m actually looking for a critique partner as well. I’ll send you an email to discuss.

    Like

  24. Zaggeta says:

    Never got around to posting my work to an official critique circle. I typically just upload it to sites like Wattpad, my blog and Writerscafe and then await any reviews that come from there. I should start looking for more in depth criticism, though.

    Like

  25. mad_cat says:

    I’ve been part of a few writing groups, where we get together either on skype of a voice chat program and we just write and talk to each other. With a voice version it can be fun as you bounce ideas off of each other. I’ve tried to run one myself and tried to create workshops to help enhance our writing skill and give opportunities for participating. Unfortunately, every wants to be part of said group but few people actually show up.

    I myself am looking to create a community of writers, and in some way be a critique group. We help each other, we promote each other, and critique each other. I rather that each person who joins the group knows each other rather than get an assortment of random people to try to tear each other apart.

    My philosophy when it comes to critique is to look for the good before you point out the bad.

    Like

  26. dweezer19 says:

    Hi its nice to meet you. Glad you popped by my blog. This is a good question. I was not aware of critique groups online, although I have met online editors and those offering to critique new work through some groups on LinkedIn. I always ask for and would appreciate feedback on my work whenever I post, but those who visit and even those who “like” the chapters, don’t comment. This leaves me completely in the dark about how well-or not-Ia am doing. I wish you so well with your projects and with the group. Cant wait to hear how you like it and I do hope you will visit my blog again soon.

    Like

  27. Kate Rauner says:

    I have recently joined http://www.critters.org/ (for science fiction/fantasy/horror; http://critique.org/ is the parent site). They have an excellent diplomacy policy and lots of suggestions on how to write comments that are useful to an author. There is even a “diplomacy checker” to look for phrases that have caused hurt feelings in the past.
    I am currently submitting my critiques of other people’s work before I send in something of my own to be critiqued. My past experience with “beta-readers” (who were friends) was very helpful. If you are writing something for other people to read, I think you must hear from those other people. How else can you learn what is working and what is not? Whether people read things the way you intended them to be understood?
    I hope Critters will be even more useful than my previous beta-readers, since the people offering critiques can be fully impartial, the site is supervised, and privacy is maintained.

    Like

  28. austriaal says:

    Having just endured two degrees with everything I write under scrutiny, I’m taking a break from it until I’m more in the zone with creative writing again. 😉 Critters does seem good though.

    Like

  29. jreidauthor says:

    While I’ve had positive experiences with critique groups, I found that creating focus groups of 5-8 people was better for me. I sent them the entire manuscript and asked them to give me their thoughts and provide official feedback in 2 weeks. I paid them so they knew I was serious.

    As opposed to using a standard critique group, where people may read a few chapters of your book here and there every few weeks and provide feedback in bits and pieces, I let them read the entire manuscript from beginning to end. It helped them remember details and gave them a better viewpoint as to whether the characters were developed enough, the plot progressed and flowed, or if there was enough suspense built in. Without me affecting their judgment or critiques by explaining things or answering questions during a critique session, they read it without any input from me as a real reader would do.

    I learned a lot from the focus group and in much shorter time than I did with critique groups. But that’s just my opinion. Others may structure critique groups differently from the type I referenced.

    Like

  30. Gerri says:

    Not that you haven’t had a terrific response on critique groups, but still I have another. I’ve been with several different groups since I began to write 8 years ago. At each stage, I learned something new. I had one bad critique from a good friend that left me in tears. I’ve had people critique me who love everything. I am grateful and amazed at the people who are willing to take time to help me in my writing career. Right now I have one critique partner who I met at a conference. She is also a writer and we fit together perfectly. Mostly work online. Make sure your critique partners have your best interests at heart and then sift through the critique for what sounds right. Good luck with your writing! Thanks for following me. I’m now following you also!

    Like

  31. i’m the same, I’ve been wanting to join one but the poster says it all. i have gotten some really useful advice from other aspiring authors.

    I am actually looking for a critique buddy at the moment, I’ve heard from others that they can be one of the best thing that a writer can have given the right one 🙂

    Like

  32. embrystical says:

    I’m on CC too. I’ve been looking for a reason to go back there again.

    Like

  33. I’ve had mixed results from online critiques. On the one hand, others in the group tend to be aspiring writers who are trying to get exposure for their own writing. As a result, they may not give your work the attention you’d like as dweezer19 mentioned. On the other hand, I’ve been able to find a few authors on writers cafe who are committed to reviews if you’ll reciprocate and they’ve had some really insightful comments.
    I’m currently building a tiered model. Level 1 being beta readers who are fellow authors to address plot, structure issues etc., Level 2, readers who are part of my target market (so I know if the book has potential or if I need to tweak it) and my editor who handles all things editorial. The final tier would be indie reviewers who will get my work when it’s pretty much in the final stages, maybe lacking only a cover, so I can see initial market reactions.
    I’d be happy to critique your work as I enjoy YA sci fi and so does my 13 year old son. I guess we’d be a package deal, what a bargain lol. I just followed you on Twitter so direct message me if you want to work together.

    Like

  34. Okay, definitely late to this party, but I can’t resist.

    I LOVE CRITIQUE GROUPS!!

    I have an online crit site I use (scribophile.com) and two in-person groups I go to on a monthly basis.

    Scribophile.com is truly incredible. It’s the best crit site I’ve ever been to. It’s members-only, so you have to register (it’s free), and if you can resist the pull of the forums, you can get seriously helpful critiques there. There’s a networking side, too, and I’ve met some seriously awesome people there who will give me honest and thorough feedback on my stuff.

    The in-person crit groups are slower, but the social aspect of it is a huge positive. It’s nice to meet locals with the same interests as me. I also really enjoy critting with pen on paper (rather than digitally). There’s just something about a physical bunch of paper in your hands. Yummy.

    Both approaches have the same positives, in my opinion. Being made aware of your biggest writerly no-nos, for one. Cliches, confusing bits, wooden dialogue, and so on. It’s all really hard to see if you wrote it. Another positive is that constructive criticism toughens you up for when you receive criticism that is less than constructive. I’ve got my first novel coming out soon and I’m terrified of the first negative review I see. My fingernails? Pfft. Gone. But because I’ve workshopped my stuff and been slapped around by well-meaning critics, I know that I’ll be able to face a negative review with some grace instead of just hiding in my closet and crying for a few days.

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  35. Amanda says:

    I have never joined a critique group, but have thought of doing that or attending a university level creative writing class many, many times since I graduated a few years ago. I find that I really thrive in that kind of environment. I love hearing what other people have written, and it inspires and challenges me to continue to push my writing.further and further. As long as you join a group that is constructive and wants to help you grow, then that’s perfect! Beware of groups that are overly harsh, critical, and offer no support or helpful suggestions. 🙂

    Like

  36. freedwriting says:

    I’ve used autonomy.com . I sort of ventured onto it during a hiatus after I finished a novel and thinking what to do with it. It can be an interesting place, but not suited to all writers.

    In a lot of ways it’s a great site for feedback as long as you stay focused on the reading groups and finding read swaps from people who look lil ether know what they’re talking about (scan their published moments to see). There are quite a few genre specific ones reading groups currently (and one or two good ones in YA at the moment, Danielle, with some very competent and some very good writers.)

    If you get caught up in the race for Desk, which gives 5 authors every month the change of a review by a Harper Collins/Authonomy editor, it’s questionable how good it is for your creative life.

    The forums there can get a bit crazy, but if you keep away from disputes on non-writing matters amongst the older members
    and use the reading group threads you can benefit if you’re at a place where you feel you want constructive crit.

    With all crit groups you need to be wary of trying to write your book the way others would write it. Crit should seek to understand what you are trying to do and help you do it better. That can be technically, or showing places to expand your story or even restructure it. But be wary of losing your own voice and your own purpose.

    Like

  37. bluerosegirl08 says:

    Hi Jodie I noticed you liked one of my posts and so I thought I’d visit you in return. Personally I like the idea of critique groups but I have thus far been too nervous about the possible reactions to join one myself.

    Like

  38. Before I reply to this specific post, I would like to say that I love just about everything I’ve read on your page as I’ve scrolled down it so far!

    As for critique groups, I would love to be a part of one. The main issue for me is that I would hope to be able to trust that each individual would put as much time and effort into understanding a piece as I did writing it. Not everyone has the same style, and perspectives are always different. Some critiques are not able to differentiate between what they personally (and stylistically) want to read and what makes a piece work based on objective standards.

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  39. eastdanielle says:

    This poster is spot on with how most (if not all) of us feel about writing and then getting critiqued. I write not because I’m trying to get anywhere with my writing, but just to let me mind release thoughts before I explode! Writing is such a personal experience that unless I am working on a college paper, I usually try to only ask for advice and critiques from those I am very close to.

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