Enjoy today's Guest-Post from Indie Author Susan Paulson Clark about the value of a critique group and for what to watch out for when joining or reading to a critique group.
The Value of a Critique Group
Therefore, the day I walked into the workshop and we split into groups to read, I expected listeners to point out minor problems in my work, but mostly shower me with praise. That was not the case. Several people suggested that the chapter I read needed major work. Some said it nicely, some not so sweetly. I wanted so badly to defend my writing, but, according to the group’s rules, readers are forbidden to speak during critiques.
Most of the feedback had to do with a lack of conflict; there should be more “at stake” for my protagonist. I also discovered that my scenes needed more drama. Though I was writing a rather “quiet” novel compared to most—no stabbings, space travel, or bodice ripping—I still needed to ramp up the tension between characters and show more emotion.
Eventually, I resigned to make the changes because, after all, I did want to put forth the best work possible. However, I was ticked off because I thought I was nearly done and now I had to face hours of rewriting and editing.
You probably want to hear that I learned so much from the group that I never had to return. No, in fact I will never stop going to a critique group. And I’m not alone. There are many published writers who keep coming back. Why? They understand the value of free market research! Large corporations pay good money to get people’s opinions.
Sometimes the best critiques are not spoken. You simply observe yawning, doodling, smiling, or laughing to see if others are connecting with your work. In my opinion, the absolutely worst reaction is no comment at all. If people take the time and effort to make suggestions, at least they listened enough to make intelligible input.
I got better at handling criticism and my writing improved. After awhile, I started to hear things like “this is much better than your other stuff.” Even though I get the occasional “really good,” mostly I do get criticism, sometimes about major problems and at other times, just nit-picky corrections.
Critique groups aren’t perfect, though. There are always some people who won’t “get” your work. Thriller writers might not appreciate or understand why I write women’s fiction. On the other hand, I find it hard to pay attention and listen well to sci-fi or fantasy. It’s hard to give a good critique when you’re not listening.
Another warning: When new listeners come in during a lull in your story (lulls are necessary because every story needs balance or the emotion and action may lack punch) they might think your writing is boring. Thus, their advice may be slightly off. However, most of the time when someone points out an issue, there is at least a grain of truth to it.
A few final tips about critique groups:
1 Learning the basics and the nuances of writing fiction might take a long time.
2 When you hear other writers’ mistake, you will learn different problems to avoid in your own writing.
3 Regular attendance will improve your listening skills.
4 Most people are considerate—if they are not, do not take it personally.
Joining a critique group is the best thing that’s happened to my writing. Keep coming back and your writing will continue to improve!
- Susan Paulson Clark -
About the Author
Susan enjoys painting (acrylics) and spending time with her husband. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with degrees in English and Education and is a member of the DFW Writers' Workshop.
She considers raising her daughters as her greatest accomplishment.
Susan Paulson Clark has just released her humor and character-driven novel with elements of drama and comedy: The Relationship Shoppe. [see Link below]
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Links to the Author
Link to Susan Paulson Clark's Website
Link to Susan Paul Clark's Book: The Relationship Shoppe
Connect with Susan Paulson Clark on Twitter: @susanpclark