A lot of the good writing teachers don’t recommend participating in writing critique groups. The ones who do, often offer a list of rules about being in such a group.
For instance, they remind us that critique groups are about work, not friendship. If you become friends, you lose objectivity. You are there for the critiquing of manuscripts only.
I’m in a writing critique group and we don’t follow any rules. We are the nightmare of really good writing teachers and coaches alike.
My writing critique group, dubbed The Scribe Tribe has helped me tremendously. Here is why the people in a writing critique group are so valuable.
Having five people that really listen as you read 10 pages before discussing them is like drinking nectar of the Gods. The real value of a writing group is being able to say, “Hey you want to read what I wrote this morning?” and then let you read it out loud.
Being in a writing critique group immediately drops you into a pod of kindred spirits. They will happily geek out with you over your choice of prose and story line.
A writer’s critique group is also a resource group. I learned about Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers magazines because of my group. I was turned on to great writing teachers like Larry Brooks, Blake Snyder and Robert McKee.
Chances are if you are with good writers, they are also good students of the craft. They understand process, preparation and prose.
Writing is a lonely business. Most authors find it nurturing to have fellow writers with whom they can share their dreams and desires about writing. A writer’s critique group is also a support group. They help you to invest in your writing.
In our case, at the end of our first year together, the three of us who had finished manuscripts wrote out pitches for literary agents and practiced them before the rest of the group. Then our trio went to the Willamette Writers Conference and pitched real agents. We attended workshops, met for debriefing, calmed our nerves and then pitched again. It was a great adventure that we shared.
My writing critique group broke all of the rules about not being friends. In the course of a couple of years, we have born witness to each other’s struggles and celebrations.
Siblings and parents have died, grandchildren were born, work challenges were put on the table and we have come to celebrate life together. This December we will have our third Christmas celebration with lunch and the exchange of everything from fleece gloves to polished stones to set upon your writing desk.
We will laugh and hug and know that life is not as long as it used to be. And we will be grateful for these later in life friendships that nurture, support, grieve and celebrate.
A writing group inspires the opportunity for other artistic expression. Often women have other interests and hobbies like painting, furniture renovation or crafts of all kinds.
Sharing these things, it never fails to open our eyes to the fact that the expression of life through art is true and necessary whether it is writing, painting, dance or music.
This one may not be true of every writing critique group, but it’s true for mine. We feed each other. I mean that both literally and metaphorically.
Whoever hosts our meeting for the month puts out plates of food. Often one of the women will say, let’s do our meeting and then I’ll make lunch for everyone. Each year we manage to do a Valentine’s Day celebration replete with bad poetry, something chocolate and a great deal of laughter.
Writing critique groups delight in each other’s company. The group steadfastly roots for each other’s dreams – for life, for art, for writing, for personal growth.
This is the circle of women that I have always wanted. I remember reading The YaYa Sisterhood many years ago and longing for a group of women that had that kind of connection and caring. I tried a couple of times to put women’s groups together. They never quite survived the grit necessary to come to know each other deeply.
Joining a group of women who were connected by their love for the written word anchors us into a true circle of women. It allows us to expand in both heart and mind.
Women in a writing critique groups are never at a loss for conversation. They can talk about their writing and the stories they are constructing: They talk about the books they are reading and workshops being taking. At our core, the group is connected by a love of story and our love of words and that never waivers.
Members of writing group have a desire to walk not so gently into that good night. They have a passion for holding heads held high. My own group is a coven of strong independent thinkers and creators. They know themselves well enough to have confidence enough to write it all down.
There are a lot of good things that can come from a writer’s critique group, not the least of which is critique. My inspiration is hearing what the women in my tribe write about. I learn from their processes each time I listen to one of them read.
I say throw out the rules and enjoy like-minded company. Set a format for how you want to work and then sit back and see what unfolds. I’ve learned a lot from my critique group. It’s a great way to become a better writer and better human being.
Do you think that writing critique groups are an asset or a hindrance to your writing? Why or why not? Do you prefer a writing group that focuses on friendship as much as work? Please join the conversation below.
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