Critique Groups: Knowing You Have Readers

This week, as I continue drafting The Critiquer’s Survival Guide, I’ve been grateful–again–for my critique group. I’ve been working on a few chapters that have less of a “template”  to them than some of the earlier ones. I hit some frustration points, some places where I had to slow down, take a few steps back, revisualize what I was doing, then dig in again. As of today, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. I think it’s good.

But here’s reason 6,381 why I love my critique group. At this point in the process, I don’t have to know for sure. Because of my critique group, the chapters will have a trial run.

I’ve done a lot of different jobs that revolved around words, and I’ve never underestimated the value of having some kind of editor look at my work. When I did closed-captioning for television, it was a relief to know that somebody would review my captions, significantly reducing my odds of sending some stupid mistake out over the airwaves. As a technical writer, I loved knowing that there were a copy editor and a proofreader standing sitting ready at their spots on the production line. And now, as I write fiction and nonfiction, I am thrilled that I can send chapters along to my critique group, knowing they’ll tell me what they love and what…well, not so much.

This probably sounds like I’m lazy. And I definitely am–about things like housecleaning and gardening and laundry. About my writing? No. It’s not laziness to want a few pairs of  fresh eyes to read your work. It’s not laziness to let my writing flow quickly and freely, to slam the door on that inner editor, to trust that the rough drafting I do will take me somewhere strong. It’s not laziness. It’s appreciation.

Because all this is what my critique group gives me.

We’ve all heard, or experienced, horror stories about critiquers who trash an author’s writing, then proceed to dicate the book that author “should” be writing. Yes, when you step out to share your writing, you face this risk. I think, though, that it’s a small one, compared to the huge benefits a strong, supportive group can give you.  And, if you’re  considering publication at all–now or in the future– it’s a risk you’re going to have to take someday.

Why not do it now?

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6 thoughts on “Critique Groups: Knowing You Have Readers

  1. Good post, Becky! I have a fantastic critique group. I think it’s only natural to feel stressed in the beginning, wondering whether there will be trust and respect in the critique process. It is so worth it, when you find the right match.

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  2. beckylevine says:

    It IS worth it, Vivian. When I hear writers talk about their bad experience and realize they stopped looking, I want to give them a push (just a little one, honestly!) and get them out there to try again.

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  3. beckylevine says:

    Yes, it’s not necessarily (or realistically) going to be the first group you try. That’s why saying that you’re in a trial period can help–as can leaving politely and respectfully, just letting people know the group isn’t the right fit for you.

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  4. I’m glad you mention that it might take several tries… It did me. Now, I believe, I’m happily settled. It’s great confidence. And great practice. And great networking. All of it! Everything!

    Thanks, always, Becky.

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  5. beckylevine says:

    It did me, too. I was lucky, but I still tried a couple before I found the group I was with for quite a few years. Even then I had to transition on to groups that worked better for what I was doing.

    Keep that group as long as you can!

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