Don’ts of Critiquing

» Posted on Jun 16, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Don’ts of Critiquing

The don’ts of establishing a critique group:
1) Getting negative feedback: Negative feedback is criticism that doesn’t help a writer. Some people think being in a critique group means to criticize, often everything. You want to avoid criticism and instead focus on constructive feedback and impressions. You don’t want the feedback you receive to lead to feelings of self-doubt and frustration. I had one writer refer to her experience of leaving her critique group was like escaping “that Stepford Wife” community.

2) Suffering know-it-alls: These “experts” often don’t write much themselves, but they have all kinds of opinions on how to make your writing better. They don’t put themselves on the line but are quick to show you your mistakes and how to fix them. They often want to shape your voice and style to fit theirs.

These writers don’t want to hear what you say about their work because it is perfect and no one can make it better but them. They are good at ignoring any feedback they receive. After a while the other writers will give up trying to help, which doesn’t help the purpose of a critique group.

3) Enduring the rewriters: These writers never get beyond their first book—sometimes their first chapter. You are privileged to hear the same chapters over and over, through endless rewrites.

4) Putting up with people who claim they want to be a writer but never write: This may not be a problem in your group, but for some it can cause resentment because they aren’t exposing themselves each meeting as everyone else is.

5) Having too high expectations: Some members of the critique group don’t come to the meeting to work. They want to socialize. This can interfere with the serious business of critiquing. These members can sidetrack the discussion and cause the meeting to run longer than necessary.

Another problem that can arise is when a clique forms within a critique group. Tempers can flare and feelings can be hurt. Some groups have become like two armed camps, which will destroy the whole group.

Even though your critique group can help you tighten your writing and come up with good characters and plot lines, that doesn’t mean your book will sell. You still have to sell the book to an editor and this business is subjective. When listening to different writer’s input about your writing, you must remember you are the ultimate person who decides what works and what doesn’t for your story.

In conclusion, if you want to be in a critique group, remember that finding one may take time. If the first one doesn’t work, try another. For many writers the rewards are well worth the search, especially if you are aware of the pitfalls.