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Critique Groups

This round, Mary Lindsey chose the blog chain topic.  Here are her questions.

Are you in a critique group? If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group? How detailed are the critiques you receive and give? Do all members in you group write the same genre?

I'm going to take the questions one at a time, but be sure to check out Michelle McLean's post and then follow the blog chain on through as each of the other members posts!

Are you in a critique group?

I am in a group that critiques my work. 

If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?

I send chapters when I've got things as polished as I can possibly get them.  When I think I'm ready to start sending it out to agents.  I've always thought it unfair to give critiquers unpolished works, because if you haven't edited it, what kind of feedback are they going to be able to give you?  Aren't they going to see problems you could have seen if you'd just spent the time to edit?

That's how I used to think, and part of me still does.  I developed the attitude when I was critting over at Critters.  It drove me crazy to critique some stranger's work and then have them write back and say "Oh, I know I need to fix those things.  What about ___?"  And I'd think "How the heck could I even pay attention to ____ when your grasp of the English language is so atrocious it was all I could do to keep reading?"  I've also heard people say that they use critiquers to edit for them.  (I need somebody scrape me off the floor every time I hear it.)  I think that's just rude.  If you're too lazy to do a proofread, then you don't care enough about your own project to waste my time.

Since I've started working with a small group of critiquers that
  • I know well
  • I trust to give me both useful and brutally honest feedback
  • Write novel-length mss, like me
              I now see the benefits of sharing rough-cut material with trusted crit buddies.

So for me, within the context of a good critique group (or when working with someone who meets the above bulleted criteria), I see no problem with sharing earlier versions of work.  In those situations the person may say, "Don't worry about line edits, I know I need to work on those.  Do you like my characters/how the plot is shaping up?"  "Am I building tension effectively?"  "Am I giving too much away?" Or whatever. I like that.  I'm getting to help shape what  might be a bestseller someday!

How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?

I get pretty detailed critiques, which I really appreciate more than I can express.  I recently got a very detailed critique, and it's one of the best I've ever gotten. It helps when you know that the person's nitpicks are really with your best interests in mind and at heart.

I give pretty detailed critiques, too, though once in a while I have trouble finding anything wrong with a manuscript!  I actually had one crit buddy call me the Editor o' Doom because I just shred things.  But if I care enough to do that level of work, it's because I think the work has a lot to offer and I care about the person whose work I'm critiquing.

Do all members in your group write the same genre?

No.  We all write different genres.  Within one group we have adult, YA, MG, and children's fiction.  Well, and I write nonfiction, too, and my group has kindly offered to read over that as well. We also have a range of genres from sf/f to romance and women's fiction.  I can see benefits to both homogenous and heterogeneous groups; I definitely think it's good to have at least one person who overlaps with you genre-wise.

So dear reader, are you in a critique group?  What have your experiences been?


  1. Elana Johnson said...
    You are so right about making sure your work is as polished as it can be before posting/sending it for critique. So. Right.
    Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...
    This sounds similar to how OWW works.
    Danyelle L. said...
    I like your criteria for your group. Communication is a big thing--especially when sharing your writing with others.
    Michelle McLean said...
    I agree about sending polished material for crits, though as you said, it can be tremendously helpful to send raw material (in very small amounts of course) to make sure you are headed in the right direction before spending too much time on a new idea.
    Anonymous said...
    I like what you look for in crit buddies....I look for really similar things.
    Unknown said...
    I try to get things as polished as possible for the group, but it's nice to have a close person or two that will help you just chew over rough ideas. Critique groups are hard when you aren't all writing at close to the same pace - when some aren't really writing at all, and others are cranking out manuscripts left and write. No matter what, though, critique groups are invaluable for making your writing better. Great post.
    Kate Karyus Quinn said...
    I agree you can't send something riddled with stupid little mistakes out for crit and expect to get anything meaningful back.
    Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...
    Yes, proofreading is not something for a crit group to do.

    I'm with you on that one.

    It's difficult to focus on the story when I'm stumbling over grammatical errors.
    Annie Louden said...
    I didn't realize some critiquers expect each other to edit and proofread for them. How horrible!
    Glad you have a much better group now.
    Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...
    Like those brutal critiques, do ya? *grin* So do I.
    Anonymous said...
    Honest critiques are vital...nice post.
    Angela Ackerman said...
    Crit groups are so important. You've got some good expectations laid down here for members to adhere to to make a group successful. Good stuff!

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