When I asked around for anyone interested in guest posting here about critique groups, Peg Finley sent me a note. And when she told me she belonged to three critique groups, I told her to “come on down!” I wanted to hear her talk about the benefits and the challenges, and she was nice enough to do just that. Read Peg’s guest post for a detailed look at the pros and cons she sees in belonging to more than one group.
Peg Finley: Picture-Book Writer, Children’s Stories (Fiction & Nonfiction),
Writers and Inspirational Articles
SCBWI Member/Institute of Children’s Literature Graduate/CBI Clubhouse Member
At the start of this blog entry I should say that being in multiple critique groups is a lot like being on a rollercoaster without being buckled in. You soar to the highest point squealing all the way to the top, and then you close your eyes tightly and hold on all the way down. It is balancing act to do your best for yourself and for others in your groups so that everyone grows as a writer.
I’m a Dreamwriter. I’m a Rainbowwriter and a Flux Member. Being in one critique group might be enough for some but not for me. Here are some pros and cons I’ve discovered during my time in multiple critique groups.
Pro: Being in three critique groups makes me more aware of the trends in the industry. When someone hears a publisher is open for unsolicited submissions or other things industry related, they are quick to share that info. Being in three different groups with at least four members in each means multiple sources of information. (I copy articles off to read while I’m waiting for the kids to get out of school so I don’t take up valuable writing time.)
Con: For some it can be too much information to process. Reading everything you get might leave you with no time to write.
Pro: Being disciplined is crucial when in multiple critique groups. You learn to prioritize. You do critiques as they come in and return them in a timely manner. You submit submissions by the deadline so that they are on time. There is no option to procrastinate. It helps a writer learn to work with revision requests from editor. You learn the value of meeting deadlines. It adds to your professionalism.
Con: The pace can be too fast for some writers. If a writer’s style is very relaxed or they are not seriously committed, it is very easy to get behind.
Pro: By reading and critiquing writings from multiple writers with multiple personalities, you can experience growth. Most writers take and pull from what they know. If there are talented members in your critique groups they can be role models.
In my one group, there’s someone who was a teacher who helps me with my grammar issues. Thanks goodness. Another member notices when transitions in my submissions aren’t smooth. Another has a lovely voice for the very young child that I try to imitate in my work.
Con: For a writer just starting it can be difficult to develop your style of writing, especially if some members have been published multiple times. It can be intimidating.
Pro: More eyes to find mistakes or make suggestions for improvement in a writer’s writing is another reason to be involved with more than one critique group. This is especially true when struggling with a section of a submission. Getting the same type of comments in the manuscript at the same place is a sure-fire way to know that there is a problem.
Con: Knowing what to take away from a critique can be a challenge as a writer.A writer might not be able to accept the need for changes, or it might hurt for a writer to hear that their “baby” needs some more work.
Pro: Another positive aspect of being in multiple groups is if you really need to, you can send the same submission to more than one group. (I try not to do that but sometimes it does happen.)
Con: It takes time and effort to be a “good critique group member.”
Pro: One unexpected benefit from being in multiple groups was that while I was researching articles to share with my groups, I found topics for my blog.If group members found an article helpful, so will writers who come to my blog.
Con: For some this could be considered a waste of time.
Pro: Being in more than one critique group means you get more than the average amount of opportunities to sub. Most members in a critique group submit once a month or less.For people who write a lot, it motivates them. (For instance, Dreamwriters’ has two original submission dates per month with two dates for revised submission. I try to submit every time an opportunity comes up. In total, I have four chances to submit an original manuscript, and two chances for rewrites.)
Con: It is a little crazy at times trying to keep up, but is doable. Some groups offer options to do a second submission a month, with at least one mandatory submission.
Pro: Some writers get lazy/bored easily. ( I am one of those writers.) The two chances to submit a rewrite to the group keeps me on my toes. I have to get my revisions done as the suggestions I take from the critiques have to be incorporated in time for the next rewrite submission date.
I am not the biggest fan of revising. I know it’s necessary. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. Lol. Knowing that there is a deadline makes me write it now.
Pro: Choosing to participate in multiple critique groups can be time-consuming. Some writers use the chance to become the best writer they can be.
Con: If a writer’s personal or writing life is complicated, a writer should seriously consider how much time they can offer to their groups.How often can you write is a question you need to ask yourself.
Pro: The biggest benefit from being in multiple critique groups is the support offered. A good critique group is worth its weight in gold and being in more than one group doubles or triples the value. Groups share their hopes and dreams. Group members pick each other up when someone is down, and they do the happy dance when one or more of the group members get the recognition they have worked so hard to achieve.
Con: Picking the wrong critique group to participate in can leave a writer with a bad feeling about sharing their work. Selecting your groups carefully is so important. Make sure they fit you as a writer.
Would I recommend joining more than one critique group? Not always. Each writer needs to find what works for them. For me, three work just fine.