Thursday, December 8, 2011

Critique Groups--Are You In The Right One?

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The picture above shows three of the members of my online critique group (writersandcrittters) at our October conference. Miho, on the right, is gving a presentation on poetry. She is from Japan but now lives in Shanghai, China. Next to her is Nichole, who has lived in several European countries and is now berthed in San Francisco. She is interested in scriptwriting for TV and movies. In the back is Carla, who hails from South Carolina and writes mystery novels. 

Three women from three different backgrounds--yet they have the common bond of a love for writing. All three write in different genres but they are willing to offer critiques to one another. They have a genuine respect for one another's writing abilities, and they learn from one another, as well. 

For me, this critique group has been a perfect fit from day one. I knew a few people already in the group and soon came to know the others. We subbed and critted on a regular basis, held online chats on writing-related issues and occasional off-line messages as we connected on a more personal, friendship level. I have always been comfortable in this group.

However, not everyone has had the same experience. Yesterday, one of our newer members--of perhaps a year or so--sent a message saying she was leaving. She felt the group was not for her for various reasons. She didn't offer the reasons, and I rather wish she had. Maybe some of her concerns could have been addressed, although I'm sure she'd had discussions with our moderator before making this decision. She wrote fiction and did it well. She didn't participate in the group on a regular basis but, when she did, she offered excellent critiques and posted some interesting subs. At the conference, she indicated she wasn't sure if she fit into the group and migh consider other options. 

I was sorry to see her drop out, but for her, it was probably the right thing to do. She'd given it enough time to know what felt good and what didn't. Not every group is right for every person. Writers are like all people--we have different personalities, different needs, different desires. If you find yourself in a group that doesn't make you feel like you're gaining something as well as giving to others, then perhaps it's time to look for a new group. 

I am one who believes that critique groups have tremendous benefits, but not every group will benefit every writer. You might need to try several before you land in one that inspires and excites you. I consider myself pretty fortunate that I hit the right one for me on the first try, and when it closed down due to a serious illness of the moderator, I landed on my feet in my second group and am still happy to be there.  

It's not a bad thing to move from one group to another several times until you find the one where you want to stay. Look around your local community for face-to-face groups, look online for a vast variety of crit groups. 

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