A Case For Writing Critique Groups

I had a very excellent writing critique group meeting yesterday, as always. I got some really excellent feedback on my chapter. More than that, I got a little boost of energy about my story, and a possible plot twist.

Let me first talk a little bit about our meetings. Each month, a different group member hosts the meeting in their house and provides yummy snacks (cheeses, veggies, fruit, chips) and hot tea. So we all load up a plate of tasty food and take a seat. The first part of the meeting consists of sharing any useful writing tips or writing contests.

Next, we choose a piece to critique. Last night, mine was chosen to go first. A few months ago, the thought of my writing being subjected to critique would’ve scared the crap out of me. Now, I was happy to go first. Now, about the critiques. First, we share positives about the piece. One of the best things I hear last night was that my chapter was “just fun to read”. This makes me enormously happy. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? To entertain the reader.

One of the coolest things about last night’s meeting was at the end of one of the critiques. The reader said how excited she was to read the rest of the story and wondered what would happen next. Then she said, “I wonder if the door opens and it isn’t Art’s parents?” I said, “Hmm, I haven’t thought of that.” Bam! I just got a plot twist idea.

After the pleasantries, we talk about what could be improved with the writing. This is the best part. Last night I heard about areas of the chapter that didn’t make sense (I need to do a better job explaining things). I also was told about parts of my writing that were good, but could be re-written to be more powerful. These are things that are difficult to find in ones own writing.

The hardest part for me is to give useful critiques of other people’s writing. I am getting much better at this, though. I think this is difficult because my partners don’t make many mistakes. Saying something like, “I think it’s good” doesn’t help anyone.

I always come away from our meetings energized about my story. This energy is what keeps me going forward. It’s nice to know that no matter what, I’ll at least have an audience with these six or seven wonderful authors. What I write WILL be read. This is important to me.

So, any questions? Similar experiences?