Day 13 ABC: Critique groups yes or no?

Image via Hyperbole and a HalfI have to say I am a huge proponent of critique groups! Since joining The Central Phoenix Writers’ Workshop about 18 months ago, my writing has improved 3000 percent. I owe it all to them. We meet every Wednesday night at HobNob’s Coffee House at the corner of 3rd Ave and McDowell in Phoenix. It is a Meetup group and actually have 5 different meetings around central Phoenix throughout the week. I have also attended the Monday meetings at The Songbird Café on 3rd Street.

I checked out a few different groups around the Valley before choosing the group at HobNob’s. Some groups seemed very snooty, requiring a vetting process before you could join. Why? I wanted to improve my writing and get honest feedback on my work. I was told they were only interested in working with ‘serious’ writers. I’ve self-published 2 novels, pursued and received contracts for three others. How much more serious do I need to be? I passed. Groups like that one are more interested in the prestige of the group than actually helping authors improve their work. Groups like that are to be avoided. Other groups wanted you to do everything online, sending out your work via the internet to have it read and critiqued. I’m not techy and prefer personal one-on-one communication. Some people may enjoy this sort of group, but it was not for me. Other groups only met monthly and I wanted to be able to have my current projects evaluated on a more regular basis.

Finding the type of group that fits you is extremely important. You have to be comfortable with the people and format of your group to really get anything out of it.

At my group, we meet, break up into groups of five or six, pass copies of our work to each person for them to mark up with suggestions as we read the work out loud. Then each individual gives their opinion of the work and makes suggestions. The author is able to answer questions about the piece and ask questions about the readers’ opinions. Sometimes the author wants to know if the group thinks a specific theme works or if characters are well developed.

We don’t stress on grammar or punctuation, but readers can mark mistakes on their copies for the author to study later. I, personally have found this incredibly helpful. The group has pointed out mistakes and I’ve since found myself looking for those mistakes and correcting them as I self-edit a piece. Eventually, I stop making the mistake as I write.

My first advise to any fledgling writer is: find a critique group you feel comfortable in and participate. Hearing people criticize your work helps you to let those bad reviews slide off your back later when you get them on Amazon. You learn how to make a bad review a learning experience. Writing is a process and learning to take the bad with the good is a part of that process. Personally, I’m a visual learner. Point out what I’m doing wrong and show me how to do it right. I get that in my critique group.

Joining The Central Phoenix Writers’ Workshop is making me a much better writer.

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