My First Face to Face Critique Group

Believe it or not, up until today I had never been part of a face-to-face critique group.

There weren’t any around me, and I didn’t want to travel all the way into the city and pay $30 for parking.

I had thought of starting my own, but hesitated because of the work involved with being a moderator.  Then, luckily enough, a friend of mine started one ½ hour from me.  She was so nervous, and very happy when I signed up… THe old strength in friendly numbers thing.

In retrospect, we discussed a few mistakes, one of which was opening it up to ANYONE who was interested.  She was trying to be nice, but it was frustrating to get there after critiquing ten pages of 4 other authors, and only having two other people show up. (The moderator, myself, and another participant)

It worked out fine, but I wasted valuable time reading and critiquing twenty pages for two people who will never see my comments,  — and if you know me… 20 pages equals about 90 comments. I am very thorough.  Also, I won’t see what they did for me (if they ever even read mine in the first place)

In retrospect, we discussed only opening up the critique sessions to established members of our writing group (which is 300 members strong).  This way, we can be sure the people are already invested, and not just “fly by night”.

What WAS good was that the three of us who came were serious.  We critiqued each other’s work, and since we had an extra hour, chatted further about each piece than we would have been able to under normal circumstances. (If the other two showed up)

I was particularly tickled that they both asked for the rest of my work (Last Winter Red) because they liked it so much they wanted to see what happened.  Everyone needs a little ego-boost now and then 🙂

Did they come up with anything my beta-army didn’t?  Yeah, a few things.  Every set of eyes notices something different.  What was cool was that I could talk to them about it.  The only problem with on-line beta partners is that you have to email back questions, and sometimes that’s hard.  Here, we just chatted it over.

Probably— if I knew who the people were, and I could trust that they would show up.  I believe that the more opinions you get, the better your work will be… and someone may just see one word that is wrong that everyone else read over.

Also, I love getting out and chatting with other writers.  I love helping people develop.  There are so many people out there with great ideas, they just need help formulating them in a marketable way.

I was there once (a novice), and it was not too long ago.  Someone helped me.  Okay, a lot of people helped me.  Gosh, I was bad… but my ideas were good.  Now that I know a little bit about writing, it’s my turn to share the wealth.

That’s not to say that I don’t make the same silly mistakes all the time.  I am nowhere near arrogant enough to say I don’t need my beta-readers.  I am just to the point where I know what they mean when they think something is not right.  I can look at their comments, hit myself in the head, and I know EXACTLY how to fix it.

Other writers taught me how to do that.

Now, I can give that knowledge back to others.


22 responses to “My First Face to Face Critique Group

  1. I love reading your posts. Your writing is lovely and simple…easy to digest. And it’s really interesting reading/hearing/seeing advice about actual steps you’re taking and your experiences. I’ve always liked reading these but I didn’t realize until today that I keep coming back because you’re so consistent. Bravo!

  2. Hi! I have always found workshoping groups to be fun. In high school, my local Barnes and Nobles allowed me to get some feedback on my writing and as a college student any of the writing classes I have taken have involved heavy workshoping. Unfortunately, it really is difficult to find people dedicated to it. After a while, I stopped being quite so thorough, although I admit, I never got even close to 90 comments. But then, I’m also not a writer. I hope you get the opportunity to be a part of these more, I’ve always found them useful.

    I also wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog. 😀

  3. Hey Jennifer, I go to two critique groups regularly, but people bring their work with them and read it aloud. Critiquers make verbal comments and can scratch down comments on the printouts as they’re reading along.

    Seems to work for us. Maybe you could try that?

    Critiquing for people who no-show and don’t return the favor is a real bummer.

  4. I haven’t done the whole critque group in person yet, too scared I think!

  5. i have a small critique group that i found through SCBWI. none of us had completed manuscripts when we started, so we slowly fed each other about 20-30 pages a month, and met monthly to discuss. ended up helping a TON , and making my book better in the long run 🙂

    • I’d just be worried about critiquing before I finished. I wouldn’t want someone to say “I bet this is going to happen” and have that comment influence your writing.

  6. Joan Y. Edwards

    Dear Jennifer,
    Thanks for putting a link to my blogpost about critiques. I’m sorry about your disappointment with your face-to-face critique group. We have ours to bring a pitch and 1000 words to critique right on the spot. We don’t send them out ahead of time. I have heard editors say that a capsule of a manuscript indicates errors that might be in the whole. Therefore, you focus on a smaller part. Having the pitch visible helps readers make sure the author stays within the parameters of the main character’s goal – the story stays focused, too.
    It definitely feels awesome when people who’ve read a part of your story want to read more. That means you’ve done your job of enticing the reader into your story’s world.
    Celebrate you and your gift of writing
    Never Give Up

  7. Good for you Jennifer! It must be awesome to have people ASK to read your work because they want to know what happens next. Right on! 🙂

  8. Good on you and your friend for stepping up. I’ve found a lot of writers (especially newbies) want to get feedback, but are terrified to hear it. We’re such fragile plants. The group I co-founded is by invitation only, so we avoided the no-shows. The face-to-face chat is the best!

  9. Thanks for the low down on what happened at the crit meet. Sorry to hear about the no-shows. Hmmm… I’m sure the moderator will adjust the parameters for those who should join it.

  10. I was a moderator of a writers/critique group and the one thing that frustrated me the most was the no-shows. Irked me to no end. sometimes no one would show after responding the day before they’d be there. Most of the time there were only 4 or 5 of us which all gave us plenty of time to critique each others works and then move on to what seemed to be everyone’s favorite part: the 5 minute writing prompt. When I filled in for another writers’ group I did this at the end of the meeting and everyone raved about it at the next meeting.

    I would ask three people to come up with a person, place and thing. I would put 5 minutes on the clock, and everyone would write their hearts out for those 5 minutes. At the end, we would read the stories aloud to the group. It’s AMAZING what can come out of our minds in 5 minutes. It was a blast, we all laughed a lot, and we learned a lot about ourselves as writers.

    I’ve since given up the writing groups. I was tired of putting in all the effort and getting no returns. I’ve found some online betas through groups an Nathan Bransford’s site. A few of us have exchanged personal e-mails and phone numbers. It’s been a blessing to connect with these people on a more personal level. I have a great RWA group near me in Tampa, but one of their requirements for joining is you must write some level of romance. It’s a shame I don’t write romance because they have a great program with lots of speakers (both agents, publishers and authors), and fantastic critique groups, etc.

    Good luck with your critique group. It sounds like you’re off to a great start.

  11. I found it really interesting that you have a writing group AND a critique group (sooty to hear about the no shows).

    I’m a member of a writing group and we do the critiquing at our meets. Infact, we don’t do much else! Lol

    What kind of things do you do at the Writing Group then?