Critique Groups what’s up with them.
How many blogs, forum posts, articles, chapters in writing books and rants have been dedicated to critique groups? I don’t know either, but here’s one more.
First, the four of us who inhabit this blog, plus one more, are a critique group. We meet once a week, usually on Thursday at 5:30. So, if at that time you feel a strange current in the ether, it’s just us. Not that we’re strange. Well, not all of us are strange. Okay, you got me.
So, what’s up with crit groups? Mayhem! Irritation! Hurt feelings! Anger! Exasperation!
Critique groups have their problems but, in my opinion, they are the best tool you’ll ever find to hone your craft. Books, seminars, workshops, conferences and even college are nothing but flimsy bargain basement screwdrivers compared to a sturdy critique group crowbar. Why? Because none of them are as specific to your writing as a crit group. The others give you examples. In a crit group, your stuff is the example.
If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will. Moving on. How do you make a crit group work? Well, you can write up a bunch of rules, make copies, distribute them and appoint someone sheriff. You might also make up a mission statement and recite it in unison at the start of every session. You laugh but I have met people who would love that. If you are a person who would love that, do that with other people who love that and God bless. But our group evolved in a different way.
Long, long ago in a coffee shop not so far away Marne, Vicki, and I belonged to a crit group that had a rule or two written down. The group split. How and why is not important. What is important is that three fast friends were freed from written rule constraints. (That sentence is tongue-twister poetic.) Bravely we walked, arm in arm, into the dark, dank night.
Okay, if I don’t stop, this blog post will go on forever.
Anyway, we three found other writers and brought them into our group. We had, and still have some unwritten core beliefs that some got and some didn’t. The ones that didn’t were either asked to leave or left of their own accord. Of the others, some stayed for awhile and one is still here. Eventually, one member of the old group snuck under the wire and joined us. We three are now five and have been for several years. And we all get it. And that’s the secret; find people who get it. What is it? It will vary from person to person, group to group but here is our basic IT:
We offer positive along with the constructive. We offer solutions if we can. We give honest feedback and encourage discussion during the crit. And we do it all naked.
Alright, I made that last one up. So, that’s it. All you have to do is let it happen and kick out the nuts.
Oh, by the way, Marne has a publishing contract. And, I believe the rest of us aren’t far behind. We just have to put it out there like Marne.