Critique Group Priorities

Today I'll be attending one of my two critique groups. I love going to them. Even though they are a lot of work to read/critique/deliver, I always feel energized after them. But over the years I've learned a thing or three about critique groups and here is my recommendation on how to prioritize your involvement.

The number one reason to attend a critique group is to connect with other authors. Writing is a solo affair and you need that interaction. You need to make real connections with real people (instead of the made-up ones in your head).

Number two is to give to other people. Giving to others seems to be a lost art these days, and making sure your priority for the group is to help the others in the group is a great way to enrich everyone's lives. It's like a marriage. As long as you're putting your spouse first, usually everything works out. Treat your group members with respect and make sure all the feedback you give is toward the work and with an eye toward their well-being.

Thirdly, you don't learn till teach. You probably wanted to join a critique group to get feedback on your manuscript. To be honest, that's why I did it to. But the reason you hire developmental editors is to get a second set of eyeballs on it. Ones that aren't so invested and immersed in your world. This can be helpful to point out things that you have been blind to in your own story.

For instance, in one of the stories I've read recently, the main character "grabbed her power stone." the author of this piece knew it was an actual hunk of stone lodged in her chest next to her heart, but she was grabbing it spiritually, or magically. As a reader, I was confused. I thought she had a stone in her hand the entire time, so I made a comment about it and he had to explain it to me.

This happens all the time and is a very common thing for writers to leave in. you know your story best so when you write something a certain way, you're writing using the knowledge in your own head. Having someone read it who is not familiar with the behind-the-scenes intricacies of how your work works can be a God-send.

As you notice and start pointing out those mistakes to other people's work, you will start being able to pick those out better in your own work.

That's right! By putting others first and helping them identify failings in their own manuscripts, you get better with your own. You are too close to your own story and people can tell you something is wrong till you're all frustrated, and trust me, this will happen.

You'll go home thinking "it's so clear, it's right there," but it's not. Then one day you'll be reading someone else's manuscript where they make the same mistake and the proverbial light bulb will go off in your head and you'll suddenly realize all the mistakes you've been making.

Fourthly, be skeptical but cognizant of the feedback You do not want to write your story by committee. If you change everything according to everyone's feedback, your story will lose all its (your) unique voice.

That being said, pay attention to how many times people point something out. If over 50% of the group is telling you something is wrong, then listen and figure out how to fix it. If it's one person out of five that don't like something, it might just be a fluke opinion.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

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