Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Components of a Good Critique Group

After self editing, you’re going to need a second opinion. You want a critique group (or partner) that doesn’t gloss over the truth, but who isn’t harsh just for the sake of being harsh. You need someone to nurture your work and help you grow as a writer. I’ll write more on the technicalities of critique groups and whether you should start one or join an already established group later. Most of you already have a critique group or a critique partner, but here are some qualities to look for:

1)      The grammar goddess (or god). As annoying as they may be, this person is essential in helping you become a better writer. You don’t have to always follow grammatical guidelines, but it’s good to know when you’re out of line.
2)      The book snob. Whether it’s in your genre or just books in general, you want someone who is well read and knowledgeable. They don’t really have to be a snob, just someone who appreciates good writing.
3)      The inconsistency spotter. This person always calls you on your bull; you know, that bit of manuscript you decided to gloss over. This person will tell you when something doesn’t make sense and point out your flaws.
4)      The one who gets you. This is essential. You want a critic who gets what you are trying to accomplish and helps you on your way. If someone ever says, “Well, you should write it this way,” or “I would have written…” then run the other way. You need suggestions, not a ghostwriter. This is your story, not theirs.

These can be four different people or all these traits can be rolled into one super fantastic critique guru…but these are things I look for. What characteristics do you look for in a critique partner?

Also, I’ve said it before, but critiques are subjective, ultimately you must decide what you want your manuscript to be and how best to accomplish your writing goals. And guys, try not to be defensive…I know it’s a struggle but once you put aside your pride you’ll be able to determine which suggestions will work for you.

Next time – Your role in a critique group


  1. I can see how all of these people would be necessary. Even though I've brushed up on grammar, I still make mistakes. Any feedback on grammar is appreciated!

    I've tried a few critique groups, but none have panned out. The first time, I had just done a rough draft and wasn't ready. The next time, the group didn't have anyone who wrote YA and it was too positive. The third time, there was one person who was too negative. So I've been relying on three readers who get the manuscript separately and provide feedback.

  2. This is great! I don't have a critique group, but I have a Crit partner and she shoots pretty straight from the hip. I try not to take offense, but sometimes that's the toughest part. ~Nice to know you!

  3. Critique groups aren't for everyone. If you have one great reader, you don't necessarily need a group. In college I had a friend who was super awesome at critiquing my work.

    I often have to talk myself out of feeling bad after a good critique, but that's also part of the process!

  4. Critique partners are a must! It can be challenging to listen to critiques at first, but I love it when somebody points out an inconsistency and you totally get them. I think I am the grammar lady. I trained as a copy editor with Dow Jones and so I tend to be kinda nitpicky when critiquing.

  5. Your blog is great. I love getting a look at the writer's process. My husband is from Scotland. Do you live there or just love to visit? It's beautiful, but I missed the sun.

  6. Hi Demitria, thanks for visiting my blog. That's awesome that you're from Chicago. My husband and I are planning on going there for a visit this summer! Is there any great book stores?

  7. Rachel - I think that's a good quality. Too many people let the little things slide...I, on the other hand, am very big picture and more likely to critique plot points and character development.

    Tiffany - I did a year of college in Scotland and try to go back every few years. I love it there, even the weather!

    Katie - Chicago is a great city. There are few independent book stores, like Women and Children First in Andersonville and The Book Cellar in Logan just depends on where you're going to be staying...but public transportation is pretty easy here.