Critique Groups: A resource worth having

I know not every writer is a critique group fan. I fully understand why—there are critique groups that become useless echo chambers, ones that don’t actually lift the craft of their members, or that contain a toxic mix of people. But while there are bad groups, having a good one is invaluable.

I am in a small critique group. We’ve purposely kept it small because we all write novels. With too many people, it takes far too long to put a whole novel through a group. We also kept it small because that way we have flexibility in meeting times—we can find a date that works for everyone.

We are diverse in age range and in what we write. Our backgrounds, both in writing and in life, are also a mixed bag, which brings a variety of expertise into our knowledgebase. Our craft strengths also vary, which allows for a well-rounded critique when you take all of the feedback as a whole.

Personality is a big part of how the group meshes, and we have been lucky to gather a group that leaves their ego at the door. Every one of us is grateful for the feedback (even if we don’t agree with it), and we are also grateful for the kind manner in which the feedback is given. After all, you don’t need to tear someone apart to critique them. We have quite a bit of laughter in our meetings, because while we take our writing seriously, we can laugh at ourselves and our mistakes.

My assessment is that a good critique group is an invaluable resource. My novel THE WITCH OF ZAL went through the group and it would not have made it out of the slush pile without their input. Every month I learn something new about my craft and begin to see and understand ways to improve.

What has your experience with critique groups been?


  1. Maria Entenman says

    I agree that critique groups can be an invaluable resource, especially when all participants are in agreement with how things are accomplished. I am also part of a small group of three. We each have our own strengths that we bring to the group, which makes it even better. One of us is great in grammar/usage, one in verbal plotting, one in thinking outside the box. My craft has grown so much being involved with these two fantastic ladies. It is important to know that it’s a safe place to speak your mind and we know any comments are given out of respect and the desire to make each MS better. I don’t think I’d have as much accomplished had it not been for the group.

    • I know I would not be where I am without my group–or the group I was in prior. I got so much support and help from them all, and still do (I always have something that needs improving!). As you said, it’s important that the environment is a safe one–both for speaking your mind and trying new things with your craft.

  2. Very much the same. Small, only accept positive helpful suggestions, meet regularly, work is from various genres. The people in the group vary, since it is an open group to members of the South Jersey Writers’ Group. This makes it somewhat difficult when working on a long work in progress. But I still get so much out of the feedback.

    • It’s really about finding a group that shares the same goals as you do. If you are in a group for hobby writers, that’s perfectly fine, if that’s enough for you. But when you want to move beyond a hobby, you need people who are further up the publishing ladder and deeper into the craft than you to help you step up your game.

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