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Critiquing Critique Clubs : Conversation question • Page 3 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Critiquing Critique Clubs

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
JohnOBX
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RE: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby JohnOBX » Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:03 pm


jayegee
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RE: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby jayegee » Fri Mar 20, 2009 5:02 am

Brian--what about online critique groups? Do similar guidelines apply, or do we need to make certain adjustments for the lack of face-to-face connection?

jayegee
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RE: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby jayegee » Fri Mar 20, 2009 5:02 am

Brian--what about online critique groups? Do similar guidelines apply, or do we need to make certain adjustments for the lack of face-to-face connection?

WIPwriter
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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby WIPwriter » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:59 pm

I've been in a critique group for seven years. I've seen members come and go--sometimes the departures have not been under the best of terms. The mention of "casual" versus "professional" critique groups highlights one potential problem: Make certain everyone in the group agrees to the purpose of the group. Some writers aren't interested in pursuing publication. They aren't trying to develop a professional writing life. Some folks just want to get together with other people and talk about writing--and, oh yeah, maybe write a little bit.
One of the most vital elements for any critique group to thrive is TRUST. If writers trust one another, they'll move past the "I love everything you write" level of critiquing to honest, helpful critique. I think every crit group goes through this starry-eyed phase at first. If it's going to survive and benefit the members, the writers have to get comfortable with one another. We have to trust that other members are trying to help us become a better writer. This involves pointing out what works--and what doesn't.
And, as an editor, I have to say that grammar, spelling and punctuation are important parts of critiquing. I might not mention each individual error, but I want a writer to be aware the errors are there. If a writer wants to get an acceptance letter, magazine articles need to be well-written, clean copy. I've experienced this from both sides of the editor's desk. I think this is true for book writers too.

WIPwriter
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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby WIPwriter » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:59 pm

I've been in a critique group for seven years. I've seen members come and go--sometimes the departures have not been under the best of terms. The mention of "casual" versus "professional" critique groups highlights one potential problem: Make certain everyone in the group agrees to the purpose of the group. Some writers aren't interested in pursuing publication. They aren't trying to develop a professional writing life. Some folks just want to get together with other people and talk about writing--and, oh yeah, maybe write a little bit.
One of the most vital elements for any critique group to thrive is TRUST. If writers trust one another, they'll move past the "I love everything you write" level of critiquing to honest, helpful critique. I think every crit group goes through this starry-eyed phase at first. If it's going to survive and benefit the members, the writers have to get comfortable with one another. We have to trust that other members are trying to help us become a better writer. This involves pointing out what works--and what doesn't.
And, as an editor, I have to say that grammar, spelling and punctuation are important parts of critiquing. I might not mention each individual error, but I want a writer to be aware the errors are there. If a writer wants to get an acceptance letter, magazine articles need to be well-written, clean copy. I've experienced this from both sides of the editor's desk. I think this is true for book writers too.

resourcewriter
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RE: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby resourcewriter » Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:28 pm

While every writer needs constructive criticism about his/her writing, the writers of the critique group need to balance their constructive criticism with encouragement as well. If you find yourself receiving all negative input and no encouragement about your writing, you may need to rethink the critique group you attend.

As far as starting a critique group, you need to have a general vision or goal for your group. Decide on how many people you want to include, and designate a specific method for critique the group. For instance, would everyone read the writers' material before or during the group?

We always sent our manuscripts out by e-mail before the group met and made our comments prior to the meeting. During the meeting, whether in person or by phone, we would discuss our comments with the individual writer. This saved a lot of time and reduced confusion because we knew what to expect when we assembled.

wearywanderer64
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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby wearywanderer64 » Sat Apr 04, 2009 6:53 am

I used to be in an writers group and found the experience both helpful and frustrating. The problem can be a clash of personalities, as sometimes one member is very dominant. I think on-line sites like this one are a fantastic idea. It honestly improves your writing and stories. As far as grammar is concerned, I also think that's important in a critique. We all oversee mistakes.

But most of all, honest constructive criticism is important. BTW. I don't mind if someone only comes to say they like the story. Praise is always welcome. Sometimes there's not much else you can say but 'well done.' It's not for lack of something to say.

annejenner
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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby annejenner » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:51 pm

I only just read this edition of the magazine and the article in question, so this is a rather late comment. I haven't been a member of an actual critique club so can't comment on that experience. However I recently enrolled in a four week online writing course designed for beginning writers to stimulate creativity. This course worked in a similar way in that students were asked to submit work and critique the work submitted by other students. These assignments were then also critiqued by the "tutor" of the group. The emphasis in this course was on giving positive feedback, in the first half of the course in fact we were instructed to give only positive feedback. Clearly this is on the assumption that beginning writers need lots of encouragement, rather than discouragement and there is some merit in this. However because the level of writing ability varied widely among students, and all feedback was and had to be consistently positive, I wondered whether this was really helpful. If someone, even given the fact that they're learning doesn't demonstrate any skill at all, is it a good thing to heap glowing praise on their work? The "tutor" of the course did this in particular, giving extravagant praise to pieces of writing that to be honest I didn't think were all that good. As a result any praise I got for my own work was highly suspect I felt. I tend to think that regardless of level of skill or experience, there's still a place for constructive criticism. And maybe in the worst cases a polite suggestion that the person look for another field of endeavour! (Obviously you can't do that in a course for which people have paid to learn something but I think there's got to be a middle ground.)

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Jannette
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RE: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby Jannette » Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:43 am

I think being in a critique group is a wonderful experience. I learn by reading others, and see my mistakes in their work. Unfortunately, sometimes the real world tends to take up too much time and people stop participating. It has to be something you’re committed to, and are willing to find the time to do it.

I also like to watch the members grow as writers each time I read their work. It makes me feel so good to see them overcome the problems that made them look so amateurish in their writing ability, and isn’t that what a writing group is all about?


jmdougherty
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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby jmdougherty » Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:08 am

In the city I live (population almost a million), there is a writers group that averages about 30 to 50 in attendance each week. I attended regularly for three or four months. I stopped going. Here's why:

1. Not a friendly group. People were there to read their work and critique others' work. That's it. After three months, nobody knew my name, nobody ever said "hi" or "see you next week." And I read my manuscripts almost EVERY week so I wasn't hiding in the shadows. I think it's important to create a sense of community in a writer's group. It should be a place that people feel welcome and safe, a place that people want to come back to.

2. The group moderators seemed upity. Okay, now maybe that's just me projecting falsehoods on them, but the board always seemed to act like they were above everyone else, and knew fiction better than everyone else. Their comments and regulations were suggested in a manner which suggested that you were an inferior, if not stupid, writer. The leaders of the groups should be on your level. You're all there to help each other, not to create a hierarchy of writing prowess.

3. Too big. With 50 people you got to hear a chapter or a short story from about 10 people a week. You might hear chapter two of someone's book a few weeks later but by then you've all but forgotten what chapter one was about. And, as some of you mentioned in previous posts, it creates a genre problem. I write sci-fi and many (most) people in attendance had no idea how to take it seriously. If a group exceeds 15 people (IMO), you should split the group into genre specific groups.

---Personally the groups I have enjoyed the most in previous years, are the ones that have about 6 to 8 people, and can meet at someone's house. You feel welcome, people know you and respect you. They are there because they want to help and not because they want to flaunt their "amazing" writing.

All that said, I am interested in what some of you mentioned about online writers groups. Can someone suggest a place to form/find writers groups online? Thanks.

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