I’ve been part of a critique group for at least 20 years. Maybe more.
When I was a young writer, I didn’t think I needed any help. I got compliments on my writing. I had a book published. No big deal.
But at a writers’ conference in California, I met a woman who turned out to be a neighbor and she wanted to start a group. We found a few more women to join and enjoyed wonderful fellowship for many years.
Each person brought something different. One was amazing at grammar and became our line editor. Nothing got past her critical eyes. Another was a voice for a wide variety of readers. She could tell if a sentence or paragraph—or article—was going to offend someone of a different demographic or a different denomination. Another was an encourager. When someone would get a rejection slip, she was the one to get their butt back in the chair.
In fact, that became our name: The Butt in Chair Group. Because that was probably the most important thing we did. We encouraged one another to keep writing in the midst of otherwise busy lives. And there’s something about a meeting to create an external deadline for those of us who don’t respond well to internal deadlines.
That group lasted for years, then morphed into another group as members moved on and others were added. We had a hiatus for a few years, then at another writers’ conference, several of us decided to start up again with two people from our original group and a couple of others. We meet weekly, and it really is the highlight of the week for most of us.
Why is a Critique Group so Critical?
There are so many reasons, but here are a few:
- The prayer and emotional support we give one another keep us going. Writing is a lonely profession. And often a disappointing one as deadlines are missed, sales are slow, or rejections are frequent. Only another writer really understands this.
- The critiques sharpen our writing and toughen our skin. A good critique will improve almost any piece as we benefit from the insights of several others. They catch mistakes and weaknesses the writer misses. As we learn to give and receive gracious, helpful critiques we become better writers and more resilient in listening to and benefitting from the insights of others.
- The deadline of a meeting keeps us writing. It’s easy to put off writing until later—when everything else is done. Especially if you’re self-publishing as many people do these days. With traditional publishing, you have a hard deadline, but with self-publishing, you can tread water forever. Our fellow writers prod us forward week by week.
- A good critique group will humble you in a good way. We all think our writing is great. Sometimes it is. But sometimes we need to graciously go back to the drawing board. Or computer. It’s not easy to have someone tell you your baby isn’t as pretty as you thought it was. But if you humble yourself and listen rather than argue, your baby will get a lot prettier.
Are you interested in improving your writing and increasing your publishing? Perhaps a critique group can help. Don’t know how to start one? Then you need my book Critique Groups That Work: A Handbook for Starting, Leading, & Participating in a Christian Writers Critique Group. And be sure to check out our growing list of resources on the Acorn page of our website.