Getting the Most out of your Critique Group

My critique group is a wonderful bunch of speculative fiction writers who’ve played a big part in helping me improve my work. I think a critique group is a tremendous help, especially for beginning writers. But once you’ve found a group you think will work for you, how do you make the most of the experience?

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Give them your best. – In a critique group, people spend time reviewing and commenting with the intention of making your good work even better. Give them your best work: already spell-checked, and written to the best of your ability. Pre-check your work for things like passive voice and repeated words and any other bad writing habits you know you fall into. Then your group’s feedback will focus on things that matter to you, instead of on trivial things.

Put in the time. – One of the things that surprised me was how much I learned from critiquing other people’s work. Give a good critique. It’s not wasted time. BUT:

Be jealous of your writing time. – As important as critique groups are for new writers, your writing time comes first. When the time demands become too much, it’s time to think about strategies your group can use to cut the workload a little.

Learn how to accept comments. – You’re not going to agree with every comment on your work. Your group will come at your work from many different angles and provide all kinds of feedback. Some might give you negative feedback – that can be hard to accept. But barring attending a workshop, this is the best chance you’re going to have to receive insight from other writers – and other writers look at things very differently from family and friends you may have asked to be first-readers.

Your work is your work. – In the end, it’s your story. You won’t use every suggestion you’re given. Give every comment consideration, because your reviewers are coming at your story with fresh eyes, but don’t turn your story into someone else’s fiction. The purpose of the group is to help you make your work even better, not turn it into a clone of someone else’s work.

Good luck on your writing!