In a word, YES. Whether you’re just starting out as a writer or are already a veteran, critique groups can provide many benefits. Let’s face it, critiquing your own work is useless. You’re either going to love everything you write, or you’ll be so hard on yourself that you’ll never make any progress. You’ll stay stuck in the mud, constantly revising your work. Critique groups can provide just the jump start you need to give stale ideas a breath of fresh air, help you figure out an ending to your mystery story, or find just the right word to appeal to the four-year-old audience for your picture book.
Good critique groups offer the perfect balance of constructive criticism and encouragement. In addition to editing and critiquing each other’s work, they are also great places to network, gain new leads, and learn about market trends.
Some words of wisdom when hooking up with a critique group: don’t be in the same group as writer friends, unless you are very good friends who are able to be honest with each other. It’s not worth ruining a friendship over differences in plot line. Also, learn to be open to constructive criticism, and don’t take negative remarks about your work personally. Remember, the idea behind critique groups is that your work will be critiqued! Get used to it!
Once you start looking, you’ll realize that many critique groups exist. If you’re part of a writers’ group, that’s a great place to start your search. If your group doesn’t have one, considering starting your own. You can also check with colleges, libraries, or bookstores in your area.
Another great option is finding or starting an online group. I used to be involved with a local critique group that met twice a month at a coffee shop. But with kids’ activities and my own busy schedule, it didn’t last long. An online group was perfect for me. I now facilitate an online picture book group with members from all over the U. S. We even have one member from the U.K.!
One other tip for being involved in critique groups. Most will focus on a particular genre: children’s, youth, nonfiction, fiction, sci-fi, etc. Even though you may classify yourself in a certain genre, it may be worth your time to check out a critique group that’s outside your niche. I’m pretty much a nonfiction writer, but I once joined a fiction group to learn about writing dialogue, how to pace a story, and how to liven up boring facts! This one group added invaluable tips for my nonfiction writing.
Be adventurous and try something new. A critique group is the perfect, safe place for doing just that!