Let me say at the outset that I love my smart, talented, kind critique buddies.
Not everyone is so lucky.
Picture this: You write something, give it to your critique group, and everyone says it’s wonderful. No problems at all. Great feeling? Maybe. Helpful? Nope.
The whole point of a critique group is to for other eyes to critically look at your work and help you make it better. If a critique partner never has any problem with my work, but agents and editors have lots of problems, then our critique relationship isn’t what it should be.
Now picture this: You write something, give it to your critique group, and your manuscript is totally ripped apart word by word, paragraph by paragraph. Helpful? Nope.
Neither of these scenarios are very good. One gives false confidence on a particular piece, and the other discourages to the point of the writer possibly giving up.
As I said, I am lucky. Just recently, one of my crit buddies found something that was bothering me and came up with a few ideas to help. It was a real “DUH!” moment for me, and new supportive eyes helped. It was a pretty big problem with the arc, but never once did this person make me feel like I should trash the whole story.
So to me, a good critique group has a few basics.
- Do the work. As the one who will be doing the critique, it’s important to read the manuscript in depth. Always keep in mind what the writer wants to say and take your job seriously.
- As writer of the piece being critiqued, it’s important to have an open mind. Yes, you may need to “kill a few darlings,” but maybe not. Take the advice graciously and keep what you think will help.
- Be supportive of each other. Celebrate successes in your group and be there to lift your partners up when they hit a rough patch.
Writing can be a solitary journey. Critique partners are there to keep each other company and make sure everyone stays safely on the road.
I know I would be in a ditch without my wonderful critique buddies.