Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What Are Critique Groups, & Why Should I Join One? - Guest Post by Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a passionate young writer with her sights set on publication. Since she started writing seriously in middle school, she’s had her fair share of rejections, as well as many successes. Now, she is in the process of preparing her YA novel for publication. She also works as an editor for the Magnum Opus Magazine. When she isn’t writing or editing, she enjoys taking pictures, playing the violin, and experimenting in the kitchen with her best friend/mom.








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Growing up in Oregon, I am blessed to be surrounded by mountains, valleys, rivers, and, best of all, the ocean. My rural community is filled with opportunities for outdoor adventures and I’ve spent many a summer picking fresh fruit, hiking, picnicking, and hanging out in my treehouse.

Unfortunately one thing my town doesn’t have is an abundance of bookworms. Much to my dismay, even the local library shut down this spring, leaving me in a literary wasteland.

As an aspiring author working on a three-book series and pursuing publication, I was often frustrated by this glaring lack of fellow bookworms and writers. After months of searching for a writing buddy, I was about to give up. Admit defeat. Resort to being a writerly hermit.

Then, I joined ACFW.

Through the American Christian Fiction Writers program, I’ve participated in online courses, gotten my name out in the blogging world (thanks, Tessa!) and, most importantly, joined a critique group.

A critique group is a writers dream: a unit of like-minded authors who get together (either online or in person) to read each other’s work, offer encouragement and analysis, and chat about all things writing.

My group has been through a lot lately—two members recently got awarded publishing contracts, others have received discouraging rejections—and that makes our group that much stronger. We celebrate together, laugh together, and offer encouragement when somebody’s feeling down.

Through critiquing the work of my friends, I have been able to read amazing stories and grow in my own craft. Although critiquing takes time and effort, it is extremely rewarding—especially when you know your friend’s book will soon be on store shelves. Every writer—young or old—should seriously consider joining one of these groups.

The yearly membership fee to be a part of ACFW is extremely reasonable considering the benefits, but there are other ways to find a critique group as well. The Go Teen Writers website has a Facebook group where young writers can create, connect, and critique. The best part? It’s free!

Some larger communities even offer in-person opportunities for writers to sit down with their peers and talk about their writing. ACFW has regional chapters that meet regularly and there are other local and national associations which offer critique group opportunities.

No matter which critique group one participates in, the process is usually the same—writers submit one chapter of their work each week. Throughout the rest of the week, everyone reads through the work of their colleagues, leaving comments, suggestions, and compliments in the margins. Although the process is relatively simple, there are a few common pointers that make the process run smoothly and ensure no one’s feelings get hurt:

  • When in doubt, don’t point it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re 99% sure that someone’s sentence is grammatically incorrect. If you aren’t certain or you can’t find evidence online to back yourself up, ignore it. If it’s wrong, chances are someone else will call attention to it and, if it’s not…well, you just saved yourself a lot of embarrassment.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s all too easy to get lost in a flurry of submitting and critiquing—so much that your own writing time can suffer. If you need to sit out for a few weeks and catch up on writing (or the rest of your life) your partners will understand.
  • Begin and end with a compliment. When I critique someone’s work, I make sure to write a few sentences at the end of the submission to say how much I enjoyed reading their submission. I also make sure to include an encouraging line or two in the the email.
  • Don’t freak out if you get an intense critique. I got a critique one time that sent me into an all-fired panic. After mulling over my partner’s comments for a few days, though, I recognized the wisdom in her words. She’s now one of my favorite partners BECAUSE of her tendency to give a thorough critique.
  • Say thank you. My group learned this lesson the hard way when half of us realized that, by not sending a thank-you, the other members were afraid that they offended us or that we never received the critique. So, play it safe and say thanks. After all, it’s the polite thing to do.
  • Have fun! Remember this tip most of all—you’re part of this group to have fun, grow in your abilities as a writer, connect with other authors, and read great stories. Enjoy the process. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoy making friends with writers all around the world—even if you live in a town that has more cows than it does books.



Are you apart of a critique group? If so, what do you enjoy most about it? If not, would you consider joining one?




10 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me on the blog, Tessa! I had a great time.

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  2. A couple of years ago, Go Teen Writers set up critique groups for people who signed up. Sadly, my critique group fell through and I haven't been able to find another one since.

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    1. That's too bad, Alea. Have you looked into ACFW.

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    2. Alea, the same thing happened to my Go Teen Writers' critique group, too. It was very disappointing. I wonder how many actually endured.

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    3. @Taylor: No, I haven't looked into ACFW. I think for now I'm looking for one critique partner instead of a group.

      @Meaghan: I don't think very many survived.

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    4. I joined a Go Teen Writer Critique group and it completely fell apart. I had a feeling it would from the very beginning..

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  3. I've been searching for critique groups in my area this past week with no results. I thought about creating one, but even with more people than cows, interested individuals are still scarce.

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    1. Keep trying, Meaghan! Patience pays off in a BIG way.

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  4. I've had plenty of people critique my work before, but I've never actually joined a critique group! Now I'm going to have to look into it - thanks for the post, Taylor!

    ~ Savannah | Scattered Scribblings

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  5. Thank you for the post, Taylor! I have a few irl friends that are also writers, so I get to critique their work and they get to critique mine. I've never been in a critique group before, though. Should probably look into it.

    teensliveforjesus.blogspot.com

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