YOU’RE NOT IN THIS ALONE
A writer’s critique group can be crucial.
In earlier times, barn raisings, square dances, quilting bees, churches and other community gatherings were places where people came together to celebrate, nurture, and encourage one another. Today, we still need that same nurturing and encouragement.
Sometimes, authors get great support from family and friends. Other times, those closest to us cannot quite understand why we are drawn to writing. They know we are not in it for the money. They know that when we get into our writing mode, it takes us away from them.
A writer’s critique group is a small group where authors can meet with other authors who understand our writing passion. Critique groups have regular meetings where its like-minded members come together to offer each other support, encouragement, and, yes, even criticism.
The authors in a small group share bits and pieces of our writing in each meeting. We read our excerpts in an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. Criticism is genuinely constructive and given in order to strengthen one another’s writing skills.
When I began writing, about twenty years ago, I didn’t know that critique groups existed. Initially, I would have been afraid to go to one thinking that the criticism would be severe and devastating, not constructive and encouraging.
If only I had known what I was missing!
Now, I heartily agree with one of our group’s members, Suzana Sandoval:
I love our little group. I can see that we’re more than a critique group; we’re also a support group. It’s so important that we have support groups where we can edify each other. We are there for encouragement, and allegiance to one another, and to our work.
Our critique group has five regular members who write in several genres. Initially, we gathered as authors of children’s books. We discovered that we are multi-talented and enjoy writing in diverse fields, as well. Those genres include historical fiction novels, memoirs, music-themed writings, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and YA novels.
If you do not know of any local critique group in your particular writing genre, join organizations for authors and go from there. Texas High Plains Writers is an excellent organization based in Amarillo. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an international organization with headquarters in Los Angeles. It also has numerous chapters, including five in Texas.
If you are not invited to join a small group, or you do not locate a group that you are interested in, you may consider starting one. Find a comfortable, accessible place and a convenient time to meet. Get the word out by contacting other authors through organizations, like the ones above, or by posting information online.
Formats of critique groups vary, including face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, or online communities. The group I belong to meets in Amarillo. When we first used ZOOM online, we were able to include an author friend from the Alaskan wilderness.
When you first join or begin a critique group, you may be nervous about sharing your writing. At first, you may benefit from simply listening, but contributing your own writing will help you get more out of the small group.
Benefits of participating in a local writers’ critique group may include:
- Talking openly and honestly about your writing
- Getting practical feedback on your writing
- Getting some editing for free (but not enough to replace the need for a professional editor)
- Sharing your own knowledge with others
- Staying motivated to keep on writing
- Learning helpful information about writing, managing, and marketing.
Benefits of online critique groups include:
- More frequent or flexible participation
- Opportunities for people who may not have local face-to-face critique groups
- Possibilities for having special guests and speakers.
Critique groups can be very enjoyable and rewarding, and should definitely be an important part of your life and growth as an author.
Betty M Reeves is an author and runs Betty’s Music and Publishing. She is an arranger, composer, and self-publisher. She taught music for 23 years and volunteers in the music ministry of her church. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Texas Tech University and a Master of Arts in Music with Kodaly Certification from West Texas A&M University. Betty and her husband Glenn live in Borger and Amarillo, Texas. They are blessed with five grown children, nine grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.