I am part of a wonderful online critique group for historical romance authors and we just celebrated being together for one year. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this group of ladies and have grown as writer beyond my expectations. Our very first motto was Crit honest, but Crit nice. This was because the two of us who started the group had received some pretty negative comments. I am not saying that all the critique groups I have been a part of before were necessarily “cruel”, but sometimes when I get an edited chapter back, the lyrics from Nick Lowe’s song play in my head. “You have to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure.”
I feel very strongly about being a part of a critique group. However, as with all things, there should be a few guidelines. First, a critique group or partner should never be cruel. If you think they are, take a step back and first ask yourself if you are being overly sensitive. After all, someone just criticized your baby. Something you worked hard to make as perfect as perfect can be. You were positive when you handed the chapter to them it would be returned, a huge smile on their face and their sing-song voice asking, “when do I get to read more?” Instead you are wondering what act of desperation the reader attempted to get out of reading. You run your fingers over all the red ink just to make sure it isn’t blood.
Now is the time to regroup and actually read what has been written by your critter. It is best to have a bowl of chocolate next to you during these moments, or a glass of wine if that is your preference. Next, read through each individual comment and think about what is being said. Here are samples that I have received…
“This sentence reads awkward to me. Maybe reword.” Okay, that wasn’t so bad.
“I am not sure this is needed here. It stopped me cold.” I read back through and realized I info dumped where it wasn’t necessary and deleted those sentences.
“I don’t have a sense of where they are, the room. What does it look like, smell, etc.” I read what I had written. UGH. The entire scene was perfect in my head. I just forgot to include any description with all my lines of dialogue.
Those comments and others that are similar will help make a stronger, better writer. They are not destructive by any means.
Unfortunately, I have read some “cruel” comments. Not all of them directed at me, but these are some samples my writer friends and I received prior to the formation of our current group.
“I found this entire chapter boring.” Gee, thanks for the support!
“There are too many errors and far too many problems and I don’t have the time to fix them for you.” The chapter was returned without one thing marked. Thanks!
Those are critique partners you can do without. If they continue in the same vein after another chapter or two, I suggest ending the relationship and moving on to one that is more positive and constructive, even if it looks like they bled all over your manuscript.
A great critique group will breed success. Here is an example of what we have accomplished in a year:
Finals in several contests
Won three contests
Had four or five requests for full manuscripts, and
Six books were contracted
The group consists of 15 currently active members so I don’t think that is too bad for averages.
So, if you are an unpublished writer but not part of a critique group or have a partner, I strongly recommended you join a group that writes in the same genre as you. I love these ladies and don’t know where I would be on this path to publication without them. Thank you, Amy Love, Carol, Gail, Heather, Jerrica, Jodie, Jude, Julie, Kelli, Melodi, Michelle, Tammy, Terry, Vesna and Xelda.