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Friday, July 27, 2018

What makes a great critique group meeting? by Warren Bull

What makes a great critique group meeting? by Warren Bull

Image from Pixabay
I just attended a great meeting of a critique group. I always find our meetings helpful to some extent. But why?
I was glad to see each individual attending because of the quality of the writing and feedback he or she presents. Each person has been in the group long enough to know the rules and informal customs such as limiting the time for reading and discussion so that everyone has the opportunity to read. We show respect for one another as people and writers. Meetings always include humor. I feel relaxed and free to both praise and criticize what is presented. Members appreciate what I say. I try to acknowledge the help I get. I like feedback which zeros in on what could be done better.
It is evident that the quality of everyone‘s writing has improved. I vicariously enjoy the other authors’ successes. I have grown to care about the fictional characters constructed by others writing novels. I ache with them, laugh with them and cheer for them. I enjoy the variety of genres presented for review. Our varied backgrounds allow us to share expertise that as individuals we don’t have.
In this particular meeting we had references to poetry used in feedback about prose. We discussed the vernacular used by characters of medical occupations, use of tight third person point of view versus omnipotent third person, plus the advantages and limitations of first person point of view. We also talked about adapting current English to reflect verbalization of different languages at different periods of history. All of this came naturally from reviewing the work presented.
I believe all the factors came together because none of us felt the need to lecture, to compete, or to show off. None of us felt we needed to defend our work. It takes time to develop the trust required for an excellent critique meeting.
As always, the author chooses what use to make of the feedback offered.
Remember, like Neil Gaiman said, “when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” 


Annette said...

I love my critique group. And I've been running a Critique Boot Camp for my Sisters in Crime chapter all this month.

And that quote is so very true.

KM Rockwood said...

My writing critique group is invaluable! The variety of people and work helps all of us improve.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I'm in an on-line critique group, and am aware that what people write is different from what they would say in a face-to-face conversation.

Ramona said...

I had a great critique group for many years. We had to part when people moved away and I have never found another that is such a perfect fit. I learned so much in that group.

Liz Milliron said...

I love my critique group, too (hi, Annette).

I know I wouldn't be where I am with my writing without them.

Grace Topping said...

You are very fortunate to find such a group, Warren. But your group is also lucky to have you. I’m sorry you and your group are clear on the other side of the country. Otherwise I would be asking to join.

Gloria Alden said...

I love my critique group, too. I'm the only one who writes mysteries and I rarely share my chapters with them because I have two online critique partners, too.that edit those. I tend to share more of my poetry or short stories I write because we have a ten minute limit to reading what we wrote. Sometimes I share one of my blogs. Like your group we have a lot of fun and laugh, too. We are careful with our criticisms so as not to hurt anyone's feelings only making a few suggestions that might help what they wrote. Some of us have been together for close to 20 years or more. But some people drop out and some new ones join. We're always open to new people who want to join. A lot of times after the meeting is over some of us go to lunch and spend more time talking and joking.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I've participated in a number of groups over the years, and I've always found the members helpful and supportive. Just knowing I have to present something each week or every two weeks or so pushes me a little bit more. Groups have made me a better writer but also a better listener. You're lucky to have your group, Warren, and they're lucky to have you.