Critique Groups: Constructive or Destructive?


Disclaimer: I am not going to name any of the groups I have been involved with, and the aim of this post is not to discourage anyone from joining a group. These thoughts are just my own.

This is a topic I have been back and forth over for a large part of my writing journey. At first, I couldn’t imagine myself NOT joining a critique group as soon as I could send off a request. After all, there were so many more experienced writers out there with much to offer. I could only envision the inexhaustible source of tips, suggestions, and helpful hints that were waiting just beyond the approval email. I was a little skittish to post my scribblings in the beginning, but I finally built up enough courage to share something I had written with all fifteen members of the group. I clicked the Submit button and sat back, nearly biting off every last one of my fingernails in dread of what others might think.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I would need to be patient. For some reason, I assumed people were sitting at their computers just waiting for my unedited manuscript to pop up on their screen. I began to scroll through different posts looking for something easy I could critique in return. The rule was to review and comment on at least two other posts for every one critique received. At least, I think that was it. I was in two or three, but they all followed similar guidelines. As I picked one out to critique, I started to wonder what qualified me to judge someone else. At the time, I was not even a published author, and the idea of commenting on another’s work made me nervous.

I remember marking some things that jumped out at me, hoping and praying the person wouldn’t get angry and ban me from the group. It was a frightening experience for me, but the author replied back with a thank you and best wishes. They were probably cursing me with every thunk of the keyboard as they typed out the email.

After a couple of days, I finally received my first critique. Thankfully, I have tough skin and can handle criticism. If not, I seriously doubt I would be writing today. I don’t think they intended to sound mean, pompous, and downright rude, but it was my first impression when I read the review. I changed some of the items they pointed out, but not everything. After a few more months, I realized it was always going to be like that. I couldn’t understand how one writer’s approach would be appropriate for me and vice versa. I stayed with the group for awhile longer, and then decided it was not for me, and left.

I tried a couple more groups, but they ended with the same result. At that point, I knew I had to find my own voice and write in a method with which I was more comfortable. Once I embraced that freedom, my creativity started to emerge, and I believe my writing improved. I’m my own worst critic, and I do not want anyone to think I’m saying I write better than everyone else, because, believe me, I don’t. I just think that once I quit worrying about what others were going to think of my work, I was able to concentrate more on the story. Having said that, I do hope there are people in the world who enjoy my books and might even purchase one. I’m not here to make millions. I just want to carve out a living by doing something I love and for which I have a passion.

Soon after I decided not to join a critique group again, I read an interview with my favorite author of all time, Dean Koontz. In it, he said, “When reading how-to tips from any writer, always remember that what technique or attitude works for him or her might be so alien to your creative nature that to adopt it unthinkingly will do you no good and might hamstring you.”

That is where I stand today. Writing fiction does not have one, ultimate rule. It is creativity that comes from deep within our heart and soul. Sure, there are mechanics and basic principles that all brilliant authors adhere to, but we must all find a distinctive voice of our own.

Next week: October, Dad, and Tee Time.

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I would love to hear your comments.

Have a blessed day,

SPACE

Chris



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178 replies

  1. Chris,
    Thanks for the follow. I appreciate your attention to my blog! I read through your stuff and see your blog as a valuable asset to my writing endeavors. I will definitely be checking back!

    In Christ,
    Dawn

  2. First, Chris, thank you for following my blog. I appreciate it.

    Second, I’ve found critique groups to be of mixed value myself. I long ago gave up with in-person critique groups. Alaska has plenty of writers, but most of us are loners and finding a group that “gets” a Christian fantasy writer has been challenging … and then the group dissolved when the military folks rotated out and the loner Alaskans returned to their cabins and life moved on.

    Online groups have been more helpful, but you’re right, it’s hard to know if you’re offering good critique. The critique site I’ve been associated with the longest has been helpful, but useful critiques are hard to come by. The majority are either rah-rah cheerleading (“oh, it’s so terrific, please say the same about mine) or from people who seriously need mental health treatment. However, I have thick skin and an ego that doesn’t blow up like a sponge in the presence of false praise, so I have taken what I felt was useful and left the rest. My experience on that site is, however, that writers seem to come in two different camps — those who change their work to try and please everybody, thereby destroying their work, and those who get mad at constructive critique and refuse to change anything (they’re usually the ones who need to make changes, sadly). So, critique groups, helpful, but not overly much, unless you have strong self-preservation skills and a good nose for cow dung.

  3. Hi Chris,
    I read this post with interest. In truth, I didn’t realize there were so many online “critique groups” out there. Perhaps others have said it in the comments before mine, but I have found that a consistent small group of dedicated writers and friends to be a great source of support and encouragement. I meet once every month (in person) with four other writers– all of us are working on our first novels. Three people in the group hold MFAs, one is a librarian and the other is a writing consultant. So I know I’m getting feedback from people who have worked long and hard at their craft. They also know how to critique work that is radically different than their own, offering suggestions that are respectful of that author’s style or voice. My writing group friends offer consolation in the face of rejection and celebration when small successes arrive. I get plenty of ideas, contacts, encouragement and a chance to share LOTS of laughter every time we get together. I highly recommend it.
    All the best on your own unique journey (and thanks for following my blog!)
    Debka

  4. Extremely well-written post! (haha there’s my critique!) I apologize, I haven’t read all the previous comments (there are simply too many), but would like to share my experience here.

    I’ve been on the giving as well as receiving side of critique, and on the giving side I’m afraid I may have been okay until the day my native foot-in-mouth disease took me over and tripped me up badly. I wouldn’t want to be a crit-editor again.

    On the receiving side, I have to say that regardless all the non-specific “advice” that fills the ether with meaningless noise (and Dean Koontz says it the best), one of the best things that could happen to me when I first started submitting my front-runner novel, was a critique. An agent was interested in the work; he gave it to a friend to proof-read (we’re talking 3 chapters plus synopsis here) and the friend, who was highly qualified by being the son of a comparatively well-known science fiction author, started off: “Can write.” He then proceeded to pull every last thing apart, from the cliche I had used as an opener, to the name of the ship, to the wandering POV… everything; and I read his critique with a huge grin because he’d started, “can write”. I had received the one thing I craved most: Someone to qualify me.

    I believe that my style improved a lot from there. Without that initial critique I might have got stuck on certain things, who knows. What qualifies a writer to crit another? Absolutely nothing – beyond the need of the other to hear the crit, the different point of view, the opinion. Maybe I ought to crit-edit again and this time not allow the demon out.

  5. I remember the first few writing groups I’ve joined and no matter how many times I’ve submitted and received those first critiques, there’s always that same sense of trepidation. It can take a little while to find your footing in different groups but thankfully everyone in those groups has been through the same thing and they can relate to what you’re going through.

    Thanks for following my WordPress site a few weeks ago – I really appreciate it.

  6. Hi Chris, Thank you for following me on wordpress too. It’s interesting because I have taken writing classes and been in a critiquing group. The former stripped me of my voice. Then when I had the courage to join the latter, my language was tainted with magic realism. i think our experiences, culture, and worldview are the fabric of our writing. Not every writer’s technique will work for everyone.

  7. Thanks for the follow, Chris. Terrific blog and topic. Critique groups are a mixed bag. Darby and I went from being very active in a local RWA chapter that regularly sponsored critique evenings and weekend getaways (and ate up tons of our should-be-writing time), to pursuing our individual/dual writing careers. But I think we both agree the best thing was meeting each other thanks to that group. Every group will have its own dynamic and personalities, so perhaps the best advice is simply to test the waters. If you don’t like the temperature, hop back out! ~Brit

  8. I have belonged to many critique groups and, after a hiatus, am in one now. All groups of people, including co-workers at day jobs, can have their moments, but, in spite of occasional pain, professional interaction can push you to grow. http://www.lindajarmstrong.com

  9. Hi Chris. Thanks for following my blog – it’s a pleasure meeting you! I completely understand where you’re coming from. I used to be in a writers group for a few years, but realistically, I wasn’t ready for it. I’ve since spent more time ‘in my own head’ as it were, and discovered my writing strengths as well as becoming more creative. Love the quote from Dean Koontz too, it clearly demonstrates we need to find our own way in this profession! ;)

  10. Chris, I love your post and i remember a course i thought some high school students few weeks ago on group behaviour….i explained constructive and destructive group behaviours to those students and told them that contructive group behaviour develop and uplift community while destructive group behaviour brings disharmony to the people of the community, keep it up while expecting related posts from you.

  11. “I just think that once I quit worrying about what others were going to think of my work, I was able to concentrate more on the story.”. LOVE this, Chris!
    As it is for writing, so is it for life. If we only stop focusing on the thoughts of of others, we can get on with OUR story.
    See, you inspired me. Thanks!

  12. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I’m returning the favor. Your post on critique groups really caught my attention. I requested to join a critique group shortly after I joined a Christian writers association. Every time I’ve pursued it, there have been obstacles and delays. Presently I’ve decided to not force the issue. I am working on finding my voice and don’t want other to define it for me. Next month I’m doing NaNoWriMo. That will definitely exercise my writing voice. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  13. Hi there! I enjoy your blog and am glad to meet you here, Chris.

    I have no experience with a critique group, nor even succeeded to find a victim to read my novels and poetry with the critical eye of an experienced person in this field. I don’t mind harsh criticism, knowing there will be a wide spectrum of people in such a group, some with an inflated ego, another willing to help indeed, etc, because it is the “human” imprint as in any other worlds process :) The reason I don’t look for one to join is that I don’t go back to what I write. That’s a weakness, I know, but I barely have time to write. Okay, thats a terrible excuse. The truth is: I am a terrible mother. Once I give birth, I set it free and think about the next, maybe because I am not in a position to publish them; in that case I don’t want to imagine the torture I’d be in reviewing what I wrote, making changes and corrections :)

    Having said that, I’d really appreciate any input you could give about the work in my blog. Thanks in advance.

  14. Hi Chris,
    Thank you for following our blog. Just moved our old blog to wordpress.com and you are our first follower. Good luck in your writings and don’t let anybody deters you from achieving your dreams… be it critiques, reviewers or others. Best of all, if you are having fun doing what you are doing, then you are on the right path….

  15. Hi Chris!

    I’ve definitely found critique groups really helpful. Like you, I feel somewhat apprehensive of providing a critique of other peoples’ work as I think ‘who am I to be critical?’ But at the end of the day, I’m a relative beginner in writing, as are those who are in my critique groups. I’d like to think that my constructive criticism is as helpful as they have been with me. On rare occasions, workshops will provide me with little constructive feedback to work on but the majority of the time, it’s incredibly helpful. Indeed, as a writer I have my own voice and style but these critique groups prevent me from becoming so attached to certain ideas within my writing that can generally be played with and changed around. A fresh set of eyes looking at my work provides me with great clarity most of the time and has helped me develop as a writer without doubt.

    All the best,
    Dave.

  16. Hi Chris,
    I certainly understand where you’re coming from, but ever since I’ve joined Writers’ Beat I found that you can have a very inspiring experience too. Come and try it out, who knows, you might even like it there, like I do.
    It’s filled with real writers who know the importance of your own voice and style and don’t try to edit/critique your work until it fits their need.
    Like I said, it helped me and still does. Hope to see you there some time.

  17. Thanks for following my blog and leading me here! I’m looking forward to more writing tips! ive recently discovered my love for writing and did think of joining some online groups,but I’m still shy of sharing! so for now, I’m just reading others work and trying to figure what works best for me. I read somehwere that JK rowling didn’t share her work with anyone, she sent it straight to her publisher! of course, not every writer can be so confident!

  18. Chris,
    Great insights! I think you hit on one of the particularly difficult aspects of writing: crafting a unique and individual voice. Critique groups and workshops can certainly help you with some of the more technical aspects of writing, but at the end of the day, many people can construct a story arc. It is the style of the writing itself, as much as the content, that really draws people to the work.

    Cheers

  19. Thanks for the follow! Great post. I was an English major at Iowa, which was a super-competitive place to be an English major. I found that when I was in critique classes with “the masses”, where any English major could sign up, the critiques were generally really kind and not uber-constructive. When I was in the Worskshop classes, with super-stiff competition for entry and only 10 slots each semester, the critiques were detailed, exacting, and cutthroat. While those critiques might have totally improved the quality of my writing, the classes themselves often felt competitive simply for the sake of one-upsmanship. If no one there were trying to build their own egos, would they find as many tiny details to take apart, and send me home feeling neurotic about? Who knows. :)

    • I can sympathize with that. I’m in a grad program in English at Longwood University, a small liberal arts college in VA, and many of the workshops I’m in now seem that way at times. Although, I admit that I’d rather receive productive criticism that is cutthroat instead of unproductive criticism that gave me no real indication of how to change the piece for the better.

  20. I’ve never tried critiquing groups for my fiction or any long-form prose work. I am a little protective of those and can’t imagine handing it to someone to rip apart haha. But I did a couple poetry workshops in college and also share my poetry with other “poets” in my circle. It’s been pretty helpful for me because you get a sense of how people are interpreting your work, which is sometimes way different from what you intended, and then you can decide how you feel about that. Also, I find that even when comments are a little “harsh,” they make me look at what I’ve written in a new way. But you’re right, they key is to take it with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, I’m not going to make every edit someone suggested. I just go with my gut.

  21. Somehow you found my blog and I am grateful. This was very encouraging for me to read. Thank you. Peace, Blessings and much success!

  22. Hi Chris! Thanks for following one of my blogs! I agree where you stand: “Writing fiction does not have one, ultimate rule. It is creativity that comes from deep within our heart and soul. Sure, there are mechanics and basic principles that all brilliant authors adhere to, but we must all find a distinctive voice of our own.” I believe the same thing applies to creative non-fiction writing.

  23. Hi Chris!
    I think every writer feels that they are in no place to judge others’ writing…and then you find someone in a critique group who is in the same spot you, yourself were a few months ago. They desperately want your advice, and suddenly you realize that you are, indeed an expert on the matter because you survived the issue this person is talking about, and have lived to tell the tale!
    While I stand behind the basics of what i write, and my style, I have found that a group can tell me what hasn’t translated from my head to paper. This has been invaluable to me.

    Thanks for the post,
    Julie

  24. I’ve never tried online critique groups. Through SCBWI I found a local group, and I have to say, the four of us work together so well! We meet once a month and stay in touch via email. Their input’s been invaluable. Even if I don’t end up agreeing with or using the feedback, it always makes me think of other things and see stuff from another perspective.

  25. Chris, I’m sorry to hear about your experience with the critique group! I think critique groups are beneficial, but it depends on the dynamics of the group…mine will help spot plot, character, or other types of issues but style of writing is always up to the individual. Shel Silverstein rarely asked adults what they thought of his poetry before it was published – he preferred showing it to kids and hearing what they had to say about it. After all, they were his customers, not the literary elite!

  26. Wow, it took me a while to scroll down to the empty comment box, but that only shows that I’m not the only one intrigued by this post!

    I have to side with you on the critique groups subject … I am not educated whatsoever on writing poetry and stories, even English is not my first language and I do have lots of things to polish when it comes to writing, which means I am not suitable for judging how others write.

    What is important to me is to find passion and effort in what I read. No matter how perfectly someone has executed a Shakespearean sonnet, if there isn’t that mysteriously, sweet glow coming from the words, I can care the less about the form of the text presented…. And there are many other things I can point on this matter, but it will be a very long comment I’m afraid.

    What I wanted to say is that I was a member of such a group and I failed miserably to sink into the harmony of the group. Not because I can’t stand a criticism, I don’t mind people showing me my mistakes, this is how one learns, but because I find that the freedom of writing brings much more creativity.

    I love Dean Koontz, very rare I find other people who love him. I will be looking for your books, if I can purchase any … and I am following you on FB.
    Best regards and all the best!

    • Thank you so much. I really appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. I have 3 books on Amazon right now. Each for only $.99. You can find the links on my Bookshelf page here on the blog. Thanks again

      Chris

  27. After critique overload during my MFA in writing I have three recommendations to serve and protect the writer – one is to ask only for praise. The other is to realize that giving useful critique is something that must be learned. The third thing is that people are usually pretty accurate about what’s not working (assuming 7-9 out of 10 people don’t like the same sections) but are usually wrong about how to fix it.

  28. Thanks for checking out my post today and following my blog, Chris! Saw this post and had to read your thoughts. I took an online WD fiction course a while back that included the option of posting our weekly work to classmates for critique/sharing. Everyone did it (well, almost) and it was nervewracking. But you’re right, it wasn’t the technical corrections that seemed to stress me out — it was other writers telling me how best to tell my story. Or change the way I told it. But overall, it was a motivator and helped me see my work more as a reader would. That said, I haven’t done another online course and critique group since… ;)

  29. Good post :D Obviously, I’m no “real” writer and have no intention of becoming one… I find that just like praise of Art, Beauty as in Writing… everything is subjective. I hate rules and trying to be made to “conform” or worry about getting correct structure. I’m more of a “content” person, but I guess I admire the tenacity of those who do. To me… it’s too subjective… what’s good or not good, in my opinion… Sorry, I’m no help…. :D

  30. wow, many comments….you probably won’t even see this one. Just thought that I would add in that I am new to the writing game and was encouraged to lead a critique group (kinda fell into that one!) I can totally relate to what you are saying…I have wondered how others take the critiques. The one rule that I have is that for every criticism, we should point out something that we like. Without the criticisms I don’t see a point to belonging to the group, but kindness has to be there as well. Yes, you do have to have thick skin and I most certainly don’t want someone to tell me something that isn’t true, but I think that there is a right way and a wrong way to help someone. We are a Christian critique group so it is a bit different, sometimes I see maybe too much kindness and not enough critique. Definitely related to your personal preferences I’m sure. My group is talking about adding a skype meeting once a month…..I guess so we can hurt peoples feelings, face to face!!! LOL…..

  31. Chris, thanks for visiting my Photo Blog. I wish writing came naturally to me but it’s a struggle for me. My strength is in the visual arts, so that’s where I focus. Keep up the good work, I’ll be following your writing.

  32. You do manage to garner a large share of comments. Apart from my #1 fan, I hardly get any!

    My take on peer review in general: You don’t need peer review, you need expert review.

    I’m opening a huge can of worms here by stating this, but peer review is something dreamt up by those involved in marxist education theory. It has no place in an artist’s life unless he values companionship more than he values his art. Peer review only has value when all your peers are experts. I’m an engineer by trade, my peers are engineers, as an example. If I were an aspiring engineer, the value of my peers would be dubious.

    You need expert reviews, mostly. The most successful writers throughout history with some scant but notable exceptions (I shan’t repeat the ‘m’ word again) eschew them. According to the best among successful writers, your instincts are correct. Unless the “group” contains successful published veteran writers, editors and publishers, then any advice they will offer is simply speculation. I’m even talking about university MFA types here–especially them, in fact. Hemingway remarked that such groups can help with the loneliness an author feels at times, but generally not with ones writing. That being said, seek experts out. And, once you’re a real expert, yourself, and everyone you know is, then, by all means go for the peer reviews! Those may actually mean something.

    Regarding amateur peers, you also have no idea what motivates their comments. If you don’t truly know who they are, it could be greed, envy, avarice, or hatred, as well as a well-meaning desire to help. If someone disagrees with your political, or religious point of view or that put forward in the work, their advice may not be advice at all, but simply designed, either consciously or subconsciously to eliminate you from the landscape. In school, I made it very clear to my instructors that I would prefer an incomplete or a fail rather than to participate in peer review. After all, wasn’t I paying the PhD sitting at the front of the class to evaluate my work, and not some other public school maleducants? (to coin a word–and, to be fair, I include myself in that category)

    Most working writers, Stephen King, for example, say that your best resource is READING. He states something to the effect that when you’re not writing, you should be reading. I agree, although I’m not his peer by any means. (and hence I’m engaged in speculating!) Still I tend to give more weight to a writer who, if you’ve read his book “On Writing,” has an obsession to write. It cost him early on in all kinds of ways. In any case, he states that once you are writing, your reading takes on a new character. You begin to see, and to look for, how another writer you admire accomplished something interesting or awe inspiring.

    Well…. Clearly I have some strong feelings about this. I’m glad I cam upon your site Chris and will give your books a read as and when they become available. I just thought I would like to provide some philosophical, foundational, justification for what I believe to be your very good instincts.

    Another note here is that another group of advisors can often be–once again, not your peers–readers. People who read, and love to read; love a good story; and have o aspirations to write. Just people who love to read! Those people can be very helpful in determining how clear your message is. Aspiring writer’s view’s on what is clear… are…well… not always clear. The very fact of their attempt and desire to write makes them a non standard reader. Once again, I’m including me in this category as well. Rather than ask me, for example, if a passage in your novel makes sense; let your mom read it. or your sister or your brother. or cousin, or your daughter or your BFF. See if it makes sense to one of them. Then you’ll have some real information to work with: 5 or 6 more or less normal readers–those that enjoy reading fiction (or whatever you write)–agree that the passage means what you intended. Or that it doesn’t. Either way it’s real information.

    But the pattern that seems to emerge, once you start thinking it through clearly, is that anyone BUT your peer is a useful resource. And this group, readers, are easy to find. You have a few living in your house, more likely than not, or just good friends all around you. I’m meandering a bit now, but I think you get my drift here.

  33. Thanks for the post. I find that I learned so much from being critiqued by people I know. I went through a PhD program, and I learned so much from being torn to shreds by professors. It was–for sure–a painful process. But I had to see how my thoughts worked out in the world. Sometimes I had to redo something. Other times I would have to fight for my ideas.

    In the end I wrote enough that I gained some wisdom. The confidence I got from having to go toe-to-toe with people who were smarter, more experienced, and better writers than I was made me tough. After toughening up, I began to have what it took to develop my own voice. So the ability to allow my own voice to come out in my writing required me to be broken down–a few times.

    I don’t think being broken down made me lose anything valuable. What I lost was probably not that strong, and what stayed was really tough. I’m happier and more confident as a writer now.

  34. Hey Chris!
    I thought this was a great post, and I also really like how you’ve laid out your blog. Even though I’m not aspiring to be a writer, I really appreciate the lessons you learned about staying true to your own voice and being able to focus on the writing when you started to block out your worries of what other people thought. I think that’s a lesson that can be applied to other things in life as well! Thanks also for stopping by my blog, it’s much appreciated! :)
    - Janice

  35. Chris – first, thanks for stopping by my blog!
    I am a visual artist and we also use the critique process, as I also teach at a college I use it a lot. When students first arrive as Freshmen they really have very little experience of the “Art world” and their work is often full of cliche and half formed ideas, at this stage I think the critique can be very useful and can help them become more articulate and analytical about their own work.
    As visual artists mature, we too have to learn to listen to our own voice. But I still rely on the opinion of a few hand-picked others, my critique circle, to help me when I am stuck, or muddled and especially to help with editing what should be seem by the public. When you have been making your own work long enough you know when a criticism hits the mark, it is like a light bulb, or an aha moment. “It” says something to you that you have already been thinking and hiding from. (Or at least I find this to be the case).
    Writers and visual artists are communicating, we intend our work for an audience, and I think both groups run the risk of being too familiar with, and close to our work that our meaning can become clouded and opaque. If nothing else a crit. from a trusted creator-friend can help you iron out those wrinkles.
    I don’t think blind crits from people I don’t know are often helpful, but one of the reasons for creating my blog was to get that feedback occasionally (although bloggers tend to be generous spirits who almost never say anything mean).
    Good luck with the writing!

  36. Hi Chris! I enjoyed reading your post… that’s a great quote by Dean Koontz and is true for lots of things other than writing!

  37. I find critique groups can certainly be a double edged sword! There are, at times, helpful suggestions and other times comments that do seem to come from lack of experience. My rule? Take what’s useful and leave the rest.

  38. You bring up some interesting points. I especially love the notion explored in the last two paragraphs. A lot of times I’ll worry that I don’t write “correctly” because my process doesn’t always follow the same linear pattern as other writers, but you’re right in saying that finding one’s one voice is essential and that writing doesn’t have one set rule. That’s the really awesome thing about writing; in it, one can find a sense of freedom

  39. The idea of an anonymous critique group like you describe sounds a little scary and less than helpful! My critique group is a group of friends I met at college. We got together because of writing, and started both a writing group and a literary journal at our university. We’re also drinking buddies and best friends. I trust their advice as writers, and I know them well enough to know when to take what they say with a grain of salt. Most importantly, we have a solid base of friendship underlying the critiques. Even when I receive harsh criticism, I know that the person other genuinely trying to help me, and believes in my success.

    • After reading through a lot of these comments, the common theme seems to be centered around whether or not we know the people who give the critiques. I think that is a great point. I send my new material to three people whom I know very well. I think it’s very important that the people reading the material are familiar with my writing style and have an overall idea of what I’m trying to accomplish. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      Chris

  40. I used to read Dean Koontz books decades ago, and I always thought he was a masterful writer. Then I simply got tired of his “formula” and stopped buying his books. Is he, today, better than his early ones?

  41. Based on just this blog post, I see that you’re a strong writer. That doesn’t mean that you might not benefit from critique groups, but it’s good that you feel confident enough in your creative style that you can walk away from them when you don’t feel like you’re really benefiting. That being said, I have my writing critiqued all the time (I handle much of the writing/communications for my organization), and I find that even if I don’t agree with 99% of the criticism, that itty bitty little 1% can be helpful every now and then.

  42. Hi Chris. You’re writing and thinking are spot-on. When considering what anyone says about anything in life, one needs to view it from both perspectives — theirs and yours. Creating a synthesis of ideas from a thesis and antithesis is the best way to gain knowledge. I’m so glad you are now following my blog and have started following your’s today as well. Keep up the good work you’re doing here. Cheers!

  43. Hi Chris, thanks for following my blog. I’ll take more time to check out yours soon.

  44. I know what you mean about critique groups. I’ve posted a lot of my writing for critique and had the unfortunate experience of people blindly praising my work. xD The problem with this is that A) It is not remotely conducive to the learning process, and B) The few people who have actual criticism tend to become outright aggressive when they see people throwing out praises. It usually ends up that 9 people will say nothing but good things, and the 10th person comes up and starts commenting on how they don’t like the style and thought the characters were annoying. Sometimes you just have to give up on the supposed objectivism of random writing groups and find a few likeminded friends who can help you out. Creative writing is really too personal to try to appeal to everyone equally.

    P.s. Thanks for following my school blog. :P

  45. Great post Chris, but I’d also add that there is value in finding a group who meet in person rather than online. (I found mine through a writing class, so we were all at least acquainted before we got together.) People will always be more polite face to face, plus once you get to know people you can better judge how experienced they are and how closely you should pay attention to what they have to say.

    As well, a good approach to take when critiquing, if you don’t feel ‘writerly’ enough to give hardcore writing advice, is simply to critique as a reader. It’s always useful to hear “I was confused about this part”, or “I wasn’t sure where they were when this happened”, or “who is this character” or “I really hated/loved this character”.

    Once again, I totally recommend finding people you can sit in a room with and talk writing! A very different experience than hitting ‘submit’ and waiting for a faceless (rude) response!

    p.s. thanks for visiting my blog! Best of luck with the writing!

  46. Regarding criticism, I always fall back to Neil Gaiman’s advice – “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

    Critique groups are always well-intentioned, but unless you find a group that shares similar writing interests, you’re going to come across some criticism that’s directed mostly by their biases, not your writing.

    I see you also live in Charlotte; have you heard of the Charlotte Writer’s Group. You can find them on Meetup. I’ve been a member for a few months, and they’re extremely supportive and always provide excellent feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. Most importantly, the members respect one another, and that’s what makes a writer’s group work.

  47. Hi Chris,
    This entry is one that all writers should read. I’m glad that someone put it out there that it’s ok if some people don’t like our content. I can’t imagine trying to please EVERYONE. It would suck the joy right out of writing. Thanks for sharing this!

  48. Hi Chris – I haven’t done an online critique group – I think that a lot of poetry groups are very supportive. (I thought it was so interesting when I saw you following me – as my ex-husband has the same name! We are friends but very funny to me. ) k.

  49. Hi Chris – thanks for dropping by my blog earlier. Appreciate the follow! There’s so much interesting content on your blog – going to need some time to read through. Looking forward to it!

  50. I attended a short thriller writers course and it was explained by the teacher that when you critique anyone’s work, always start with something positive, such as what you liked about the piece you have read. New writers should always be encouraged because it’s quite a feat to put words down and it’s nerve wracking to know what someone else might think about it. Constructive criticism helps but only to point out something that might be less obvious to the writer, not to deconstruct sentences and nit pick about useless things. After all, as a writer, when someone reads your work, you want to know the important things like: is there is a story in this, and does it hold your interest. Like you, I was terrified when someone first read something I had written. The person hated it so much they got hysterical telling me the problems with it. I was so upset I thought I might never write again. Dean Koontz is my second favourite writer. I love his books. He was number one but recently got nudged by Aussie crime/thriller writer: Michael Robothom. :)

  51. First off, your follow could not have come at a better time. I’m just about to start a writing course online and I’m psyched about it, but am also psyching myself out. I’m terrified that I’m getting into the deep end with some big sharks that will be able to eat me alive. My only hope is that they will take kindly to a shrimp, and give me a few pats on the head, I think. But, hearing that some one else thinks along the same lines as me: that writing in the end is personal, and I have to stay focused on finding my own voice while trying to refine other things people suggest was…. a magical bit to read right now. I feel like I owe you a world of thanks, not only for stopping by and following my blog, but for writing this post. It let me know it’s OK to be a bit scared and frustrated, and that it’s all a part of coming into your own. Thank you, thank you!

  52. Thank you for sharing your experience, I can relate! I am part of a writing group and the other members are much more experienced than I am. I often feel discouraged by their feedback. I have to take what they say with a grain of salt and try and improve, but most importantly, keep writing!

    Mary

  53. I believe only intelligent, objective and trustworthy people should (constructively) critique others’ writings – and they have to be avid readers in my humble opinion (*^_^*) – as they will do so whilst respecting the author’s/writer’s tone and style without impeding his/her flow or creative thought process throughout the piece be it in creative (fiction) writing and/or nonfiction writing (^_^).

    At the end of the day, a writer can choose which criticism to accept and which to reject. Of course, I’m referring to constructive criticisms that are of substance that’ll make the piece read better rather than just malicious ramblings devoid of any beneficial input. One should always disregard the latter. Writers have to be careful when sending their writings to critiques to ensure the feedback they’re receiving is purely to assist and benefit the writer and the writing (^_^).

  54. I think it is important to remember that not all criticism is constructive criticism. There are people out there who are looking to trash your work regardless. That is why it is so important to find people you trust and who you know will tell you their true opinions to help you become a better writer.

  55. Recently I had my writing critiqued by a published author. It was a terrific experience and a real eye opener as to how much I still had to learn. Although I’ve read many opinions in support of critique groups and how it’s a “must” if you want to improve your writing, I tend to agree with you. Thanks to you, I can now breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to add critiquing other writer’s work to my plate. I would never have time to write!

  56. I’m a visual artist not a writer but much of what you say about critique groups applies also to artists. I’ve only experienced face to face groups but they can also be cruel and unthinking in their comments. Respect and creative feedback is what we all want, otherwise, what’s the point?
    Thank you for your visit and follow at art rat cafe – I am honoured…

  57. A great post, Chris. It’s wonderful that you don’t need a critique group but too bad you had a crappy experience. I need to keep my current group around a long time. They know when to praise and when to offer suggestions. They make me work harder. They also tell me to ignore them if I disagree. Wish I’d had these folks around when I first started writing. (Is it common to cringe when you read your earliest published works?) :)

    • I look back at some of my earlier stuff and not only cringe, but almost start to cry. So horrible. Lol. I’ve started a re-write on my very first novel because it was so poorly written back then. I believe it’s a great story, but it definitely needs some major work. Thanks for stopping by

      Chris

  58. Hi Chris! You have a wonderful blog, full of helpful information! We just wanted to thank you for stopping by Day4Women and following. We appreciate the support! Have a wonderful day, and looking forward to reading more from you.

  59. Personally, a critique group would be most helpful to me if I knew the people. That way I would have a context to interpret what they said. But in the end, you’re the one that knows what you want to say and whether you’re happy with what you’ve written. Maybe a group is a seasonal thing and you’ve just moved beyond that season.

  60. Hi Chris,
    I feel I have to respond to your great post. First, I’m sorry that you’ve had some rough experiences. Not all critique groups are like that. In reading the many responses you have here it sounds like many online groups are too impersonal. And maintaining your own creativity and voice is incredibly important. I’ve been facilitating a writing critique group for almost ten years. There are two very important rules in our group. The first one is having trust in and respect for all the members of the group. The second is that you can give constructive, positive comments without being mean or rude. We have had a lot of writers come and go over the years but we have a core group of us who have been together for a long time writing in a variety of styles and genres. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other. We constantly learn from each other. We encourage each other. Sometimes it’s nice to just talk with other writers. I wish everyone could have a group like ours. If you can’t find one, start one!

    • That sounds like a great group you have there. I hope you didn’t take offense at all to my post. I definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from checking out critique groups. I just wanted to share my own personal expereinces. It sounds like you have a working system in your group where writers can feel comfortable sharing their material with everyone. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment. Have a great evening.

      Chris

  61. I think I am almost the exact opposite of you. I revise a few things as I go and hardly ever proof read or change something. I know that if I do, I won’t stop or I’ll completely change it, so I don’t. In the end, I’m sure there are quite a few typos and grammatic errors. But, I’ll leave be.

  62. Chris,

    Dean Koontz, a favorite author of mine as well, gave excellent advice. Also agree with Tommy (above comments) that the ‘reader is the best’ to pass judgement. Like Tommy, I’ve never used critique groups. Now, I’m that ‘old dog learning new tricks’ in this whacky digital world and don’t know half the time what I’m doing. There is something I do believe in: my writing! It is not Nelson DeMille, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz. I’m a good wordsmith who cannot put together long convoluted plot lines, but I can weave an entertaining story with some interesting characters. I must and need to believe that. Here in ‘twilight,’ that’s a requirement.

    You are a good writer, unique of style and substance, and you have many fans. My compliments to you. There will always be those who criticize our works, from minor typos to what they consider major plot flaws and/or character development. No matter the ‘toughness of our skin’ (mine is very thin!) negative critiques hurt. When we’ve put the final re-edit period on our manuscript and we like what we’ve written and made all the connecting links, we are looking at a worthy work of art. We should believe that, always. Will our next book be better than the last one written? Very likely so! That seems to be the nature of our craft.

    Like you, a few people read my pre-pub manuscripts and usually give me the ‘go sign…’ Maybe they fear my crumbling in front of them if they did otherwise. After publishing a book in 1995 with a small publisher, after some modest sales, after it went out of print, I dusted off some of my old manuscripts, re-wrote, re-edited ad nauseum, and self-published them. There are some sales, but, in this new E-World, I’m pretty much lost as to where the handles are to market and promote. So, I’m just going to write and keep the blog sites current.

    Rambling comes easy here in ‘Twilight,’ so I’ll stop by saying what I said a couple of paragraphs ago, you are a good writer — and never doubt that. When you do have a tendency to doubt, pick up a copy or dial up a PDF of “The Stranger” and read it again… Good reinforcement!

    Thanks for a good and interesting post, and best wishes.

    Billy Ray

  63. Over the years, I’ve learned what to week out and what to listen to. :) When and if you find someone who *gets* your writing, hang on to them and treat them like gold. :) I’ve found two–via an MFA program–and the 3 of us seem a good fit. :)

  64. Hmmm, it’s funny I read this at a day when similar thoughts about my own writing have been running around in my head. It is a process that never seems to end…always being improved/retouched/expanded/learned. I think the best kind of words are the ones filled with honesty. Honesty & humility. Not wanting to garner anything in return other than new viewpoints & some gratitude that other’s can relate to what spews out of our minds. Essentially, the old adage of “be yourself” is the best kind of advice. Keep writing everything that reflects you!

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment on this post. I really appreciate that. I don’t think I ever truly “finish” anything, whether it’s a paragraph, chapter, or entire novel. I am never satisfied with what I’ve written. I just have to finally get to the place where I can let it go and stop trying to fix it.

      Chris

  65. Well said! I agree…everyone has their own voice and style of writing, so you eventually learn to take what he or she says with a grain of salt. (I learned this a lot in my creative writing classes over the years.) I don’t think its a matter of thinking yourself superior than others, just having confidence in yourself and in your writing. Because if you think its great, (and chances are it is) then others will too. :)

  66. Now ..just a moment..you already asked us all to join and follow you and that makes a group of people who would ? do what :)) evaluate and judge but the idea is about discovering oneself and not follow..okay..that was an overstated remark..but it is , a comment..view . idea .or thinking.
    ps: do not get angry or upset or ban me. if you do get angry please drink a glass of water, and calm down then you can always ban me ..no hard feelings..

    • Lol. I’m not mad at all. To me, there is a huge difference between being involved with a dedicated critique group and having a blog. I don’t post things on here to have everyone critique and tell me what I did wrong. I have this blog so I can meet new people, share things about myself, and, being an author, hopefully get people interested in my work. The goal, of most blog posts, is to start discussions and get different viewpoints. I’m always interested in how other people see things. I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment. Hope you have a great day

      Chris

  67. Thanks for following my blog, Chris! I hope you continue to enjoy what I write.

  68. I have the opposite complaint about critique groups, both on-line and real-time. So many people just say, “Oh, it’s really good, I liked it a lot!” which is gratifying, but doesn’t help the author to improve. (Of course when people say, “I hate it, it’s terrible!” that doesn’t help either.) So few people these days are in the habit of thinking critically about art in general, not just giving an opinion, but an analysis–what makes it good or bad, what could be changed to make it better?

  69. Nice post! I agree with what supashmo said: the internet has become a haven for anonymity, turning people into harsh trolls. I was lucky enough to find a supportive, live, group of writers who provide professional and useful feedback. What I’ve learned is: a select few will provide astounding feeback, others will provide useful info to be taken with a grain of salt, and the rest will not understand your work. Once you reach a certain point, you learn to trust your instinct and find what your voice is telling you. Always speak from that truth and you will create something worthwile.

  70. I’ve read nothing but praise for critique groups, so it was kind of nice to see the flip side of that coin.

    The first time I submitting something to an online critique, I ended up crying. The comments were just mean. I didn’t quit writing, but I quit submitting it for review. It seems like if 100 people read a story, there will be 100 different suggestions about how to ‘fix’ it. If all those suggestions are taken, I’d have a story that didn’t feel like the one I’d written.

  71. Chris, I was waiting for this post! Thank you for sharing your experience. I have had similar experiences when I’ve been in writing workshops; however, there is usually one or two whose comments resonate. I do prescribe to taking what works for you & rejecting what doesn’t. I still would like to find a beta group for my work with people who I don’t know.
    Thanks for your info! Consider yourself followed on FB & Twitter; consider following me too!

  72. Chris:

    Let me start by agreeing with you, that I’m not doing this because I want to make millions (although I wouldn’t object to it!) Howeverm, it would be nice to be able to make a living at it.

    Regarding joining a critique group: I was aware of them, but must confess I’ve had no interest in joining one. While I always welcome comments, praise and criticism, and I very much would like my readers to enjoy what I write–in the end I do this because I feel compelled to, like it’s something I should be doing. To be kind of blunt about it, and with apologies to whomever this might offend: I’m going to write whether anyone else likes it or not, or even reads it. (Although of course I hope it does get read.)

    Having said that, I’d like to share some writing advice.

    While in college, I had an English writing instructor named Bruce Dobler who was himself instructed by Kurt Vonnegut at the University of Iowa. While initially my writing style was an attempt to copy his (and doing a poor job at it), eventually my style evolved into my own, influenced by both his and others as well.

    Two of the things that stand out for me–two pieces of advice he was passing on from Vonnegut–were:

    * Write, and keep writing. Don’t be concerned with writing a story from the beginning to end, you’ll get caught up with starting it correctly–for example, that you need that perfect opening line–and that will bog you down. (One of the great things about Scrivener is that you can write all the parts of the story separately and then arrange them however you’d like later on.) But the key is to keep writing and not to stop–the creative process will keep you going.

    * Write the way you speak. This doesn’t work for everyone, because some people are better expressing themselves through writing than speaking. But, generally, most will find that their writing will have a more natural tone and sound more relaxed, will flow better if you follow this advice.

    I’ve been writing for years and years, but only recently decided to start sharing it. I pass along this advice in the hopes that others might benefit from it, as I have.

  73. I just think that critique groups are hard to do over the internet. It provides a shield of anonymity, which makes people a lot meaner than in person.

  74. A wise man once told me about a published author that held critique groups – meetings for new/unpublished authors. The catch: Members were only allowed to give thoughtful and honest praises for each person’s work. The result: Eventually, nearly all of the writers who attended her groups were published. The reason: There will always be a reason why your work is not “good enough.” People discover for themselves the parts of their work that don’t get praised and actively look for the fortes in others’ work. Then, working on their weaknesses is THEIR CHOICE, giving them a sense of empowerment and freedom in their writing.

    Great post. Thank you!

  75. Awesome. I struggle with my writing voice as well. As a general rule, all my writing comes across as very “informal”. I’d like to sit down and write some sort of opus (don’t we ALL wish that?) but taking baby steps back out there.

    Thanks for this post; it was well-put Sir.

    • Thank you for taking the tiem to read and comment. I appreciate it. Have a great day.

      Chris

      • Chris,
        Enjoyed your post about writers’ groups and had to comment… Like any other group of people, writers’ critique groups sometimes work, other times definitely not. I’ve belonged to three and found that a writer can learn a lot from other writers. The problem with the first two was that some participants had “hidden agendas” which created conflict in the group. I’ve learned to get out of those situations without delay.

        My current group is composed of those who are more serious about their writing than they are about themselves. Sometimes they see things I did not – even though I wrote the piece. The same is true in analyzing their work and figuring out what works (for me and for them) and what does not (and why). Discussion about ticklish or debatable issues can also be helpful. What I like about my current group is that any comment made is simply that… it may be worth what one pays for it (nothing) or it may help – take it or leave it. The comment is a gift, a reader has bother to review your work – whether it changes what the author has written is a decision that only author makes.

      • That’s really cool. So glad you found what sounds like a great group. Thanks for sharing.

        Chris

  76. Hi Chris. It’s funny how so many talented writers agonise over whether they’re any good or not, but bloody awful critics have no such qualms! People don’t seem to realise that giving valuable criticism is an art as much as writing is.
    Never let anyone stop the writing!

  77. When I built up my confidence, I had the same thoughts–I can critique myself, I know how I want it to sound, it’s mine!!

  78. Wodehouse had a unique writing style and went his merry own way, all slang and foolishness – and thank goodness – so all his rabid fans could enjoy his voice and creativity now almost 100 years after his first “break”. My feeling is – write with your own uniqueness – it’s a gift!

  79. I like critique groups because you get to meet other authors and get various opinions about your work. You weigh in what everyone says and decide what changes to work on. I also think anyone could critique a writer’s work because they represent your potential audience that you’d want to impress.

    The only downside to such a group, in my experience, is when the members are vague about their critiques. I like it when someone goes in depth in their review, not skim over everything. Its hard to learn anything when someone says, “Its pretty good! Just fix your grammar here and there”. That’s not too helpful, IMO.

  80. I am new to this (writing and your blog) and did not know about critique groups. Getting to my own voice is the very hardest thing for me. I feel fearful and worry what other people will think of my writing all the time and I think it makes my writing awkward. I need a Find Your Flow group… :)

  81. Chris,
    I enjoyed your post about critique groups and found it very informative. I have never joined one simply because of the time involved. I’d rather find one or two individuals I trust to critique my work. Now, after reading your post, I’m convinced I was right. Thanks for giving you honest opinion!

  82. What you wrote here is so true. Even though I’m not part of a critique group sometimes I tend to look to those I let read chapters early and their critiques and take to heart what they say when in reality not everyone will feel the same way about it as I do. Thank you for that reminder. Sometimes I need to remember, I’m doing this mostly for me because I enjoy it, not to please everybody. I just hope that there will be someone out there who will enjoy reading what I write as much as I enjoy plotting it and putting it to paper.

    Have a great day :)

  83. I’m really encouraged by your post. I have not had anything published but am working on my first novel. I am not apart of any critique group nor do I have a critique partner but I have been contemplating connecting with a few online writer friends to give me some honest feedback when I finish my first draft. I did research some online groups but was uneasy with that approach.

    I do feel each writer has their own voice and shouldn’t have to fit into some sort of mold. That would make the world of fiction…well, boring.

    • Hey, I wish you the best with your novel. I think it’s a great idea to find a handful of people whom you trust and are comfortable with looking at your work. I have three people that read my material before it ever goes public. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      Chris

  84. Hey, Chris. Love your post (awesome insights), love your writing, and love your creative freedom! No wonder I am one of many who can’t wait until your next writings appear! And no wonder you have been a kindred spirit with Dean Koontz, over the years, even though he hasn’t met you – yet. ;-) Wise advice .Enjoyed the wonderful comments of your fellow writers, too.

  85. I’m in a critique group, though haven’t been active lately. However, I do plan on using it, not for my style, but for checking on anything I may miss out on. I know that when I read my own writing, I tend to miss some of my mistakes. Also, the story makes sense to me, because I have it all in my head. I’d like to know if it makes sense to others. My style is my style, and I won’t let any critique groups try to change it.

  86. I agree with both you and Dean Koontz….the creative process is special and unique. I don’t think that any critique is really applicable when it comes to assessing another’s individuality coming through with its own creative statement. I personally never get involved with reviews, critiques and the like, although I have been tempted many times!

  87. I’m not a writer, but whenever I blog about something, or do anything really, I always remind myself that there are people who will like you and those who won’t. You can’t please everybody. As long as you are writing sincerely, with conviction, and you love and have a true passion for what you are writing about, then go for it!

    Constructive criticism is a good thing too, if it proves to enhance the aforementioned. :)

    P.S. I happen to really enjoy Dean Koontz as well! admittedly, I havent read a whole lot of his work, but of the few I have read, I was blown away! I need to start reading more of his books. I actually have a list somewhere… :)

    • I agree. Definitely can’t please everyone. I think that’s another reason I decided to just write and use whatever voice I was given. I’ll just let the readers decide if it’s any good. :) Yeah, definitely check out Dean Koontz. My favorite novel of his is Watchers. Good stuff.

      Chris

  88. My experience was a bit different and probably one that all of us have gone through. I took a poetry course in college and we had critique groups during class. People are harsh!! But, I found, for myself, that with an open mind, they did have some really good points. Some people loved my work, others hated it. The main takeaway that I had was that it is all about perception and a great deal of it, at least in my case, was also based on subject matter.
    I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to take that much criticism all at once but it’s what you do with it that counts! Sounds like you may have gained a bit more than you thought you would have. :)

  89. Internet critique groups can be rough (have any writing friends within close range to sit down with you in person, maybe?) It seems like 60% of anonymous critique is unhelpful, and sometimes downright weird (like, you’re thinking, did you read MY manuscript?), but for me personally, some beta readers are essential to the process. I never see ALL the holes and problems on my own, and definitely never catch when someone might be confused. It’s possible that given enough time I could spot the problems on my own, but this sure speeds things up. It’s all about the individual–as you very rightly said. I need critiques, as does Brandon Sanderson and various others. But some (like Stephen King) don’t use them at all.

    • Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I have three people who see my material before any of it goes public. I agree that it’s essential to the process to have someone other than yourself read it through. Have a great day.

      Chris

  90. I’ve never tried an online group. All of my critique/workshops have been in-person, but that didn’t stop some folks from being pompous and mean-spirited. The one workshop that worked best for me was one I formed. We had ground rules (similar to Clarion), and I learned a lot through that workshop. It’s hard to find people who have enough time to read each other’s work–I know it would be near-impossible for me to do so now–but I think it’s a requirement for any writer to get outside criticism. Now, I have a small circle of “second readers” who get the MS before it goes out. It’s too small a group, imo, but finding people who are interested, have the time, and whose feedback I value is difficult.

  91. Hey, Chris. Love this post, love your writing, sure do love your creative freedom, and the trek to get here, that you have described above! No wonder you are writing with such abandon now, and no wonder we can’t wait for your next writings. :-)

  92. I’m not in any writer or critique groups. Part of it is fear; part of it is that it just doesn’t seem to be my thing. Of course, that doesn’t negate needing objective opinions about one’s work, for which thick skin is indeed a requirement.

  93. I remember one of my first rejection letters. I am not sure if it was from a summer intern helping out the editor or what but I had decided to submit a self published children’s book around with a cover letter explaining that I was open to any changes which obviously the one writing the rejection letter hadn’t even read…after telling me “they” could not use my book because even though they liked the illustrations (which by the way they mispelled) and liked the idea… they didn’t like the font I used which they say was hard to read. My thoughts were; SOOO, YOU ARE THE PUBLISHER, PICK A DIFFERENT FONT! Hind sight is 20/20 and I actually agree that the font, (Harrington) was not the right choice for a children’s book. Hearing once that you don’t argue with rejection letters… I let it go.
    I wonder if I would alway scrutinize WHO was critiquing my work. I mean, I wrote OFF the above as some inexperienced kid. But then later agreed with the call on my choice of fonts.
    I would hope that I would be more open to critiquing…I know I need it! In school, I had teachers placing me in Independent Study classes and giving me A s…. I think I was spoiled in High School and then when I got to college, I was able to BS my way though a lot of essays…. But reading just the blogs here… I’ve realized how many talented people there are out there and that I have been a big fish in a little pond for a long time (at least in my head~smile) and know I have a comeuppance awaiting me when I finally really put myself out there!
    Thank you for this post! It was very thought provoking!!

  94. I have joined a few of these groups. They do motivate me to write but I eventually get bored and move on. However, it’s always fun to hang with fellow writers. I have made a few friends too, so its was worth it. Good post Chris. Thank you for following me too. Keep laughing and moving forward.

  95. I guess a critique group is like any other group that you might join – just because you have the same thing in common, doesn’t mean that your approach to it will be the same, and often you need to shop around. I do think that it’s better to be face to face when giving and receiving criticism though. It’s too easy to imagine a certain tone when reading text. My writing group can deliver real punishing blows about my work, but I can see in their faces that they do it with the best intentions. I also think that you need to be in a group for some time for it to really begin to work. I have been with the same group for a few years now and we are a well-oiled machine, never encroaching on each other’s ‘voice’, which is sacred territory. This was an interesting post – liked that Koontz quote at the end.

  96. I understand what you’re saying. I’ve never sent anything I’ve written to be critiqued, however, I have a brother who is a writer. He is my best and worst critic! Sometimes I follow his advise and sometimes I ignore him because I feel he’s not on the same page with me. Sometimes he gets exasperated with me… But I’m my own person. Thanks for writing this post, it’s causing me to think deeply.

  97. Hey Chris I read your novella The Stranger and I have reviewed it in my blog! Thanks for a good read!

  98. I have never used a critique group. I am just starting out and figured I needed to hone my skills a bit more before I attempted that. Now, after reading your post, I realize that I don’t need/want other writers reviewing my work for me and trying to shape me into their idea of what a writer should be. I will continue writing for the sheer love of writing and let the readers decide if it is good or not. After all, the reader is the best critic of all.

  99. Well, I’m certainly not an author but the idea of groups such as this seems very appropriate.

  100. that is something what i need very much. : not to think about others and do the thinking about what i’m doing and concentrate ,. so, You, too were ordinery in the begining…

  101. Great post. I like your emphasis on individual creativity, thanks.

  102. I have been in 3 different critique groups at three different stages of my writing career, and have lucked out each time. My current group is full of experienced writers and we meet once a month. The feedback is always well thought out, and I get to decide which portion of each critique is valuable and which parts aren’t. I have never left a meeting without a new fire to write and a handful of helpful suggestions. I also get a lot out of critiquing the work of others, it makes me a better writer, I believe. So all in all, my experiences with critique groups have been nothing but positive. Yet…I can see how it could all go wrong…

  103. I totally agree – each writer has their own voice – if we all did it exactly the same way how boring would that be! The best writing comes from the truth that lives inside you.

    • Amen. Thanks for stopping by. Great comment.

      Chris

      • you’re welcome – and thanks for stopping by my blog recently. I was in a small writers support group which I found very helpful in the sense that it made me want to write new stuff to share. We did not critique each other, just listened and helped if asked – it was a wonderful group. Then we moved, so I have been a little slow being motivated lately. Part of getting back into writing is finding blogs to read that will inspire me to keep writing. I have added you to my readers list. Thanks for your insights.

  104. Chris, thanks for an inspiring article. Will keep Dean Koontz’s words in mind the next time I’m awaiting a critique.
    I enjoy receiving feedback that helps me correct and improve my writing style. A few times, my presentation has been difficult for a reader or two to understand the thought I am trying to convey. Something like that sentence itself :)
    Sometimes though, I ignore norms as long as I’m comfortable with the output. I prefer simplifying!

  105. It’s very nice to meet you Chris and thanks for reading my blog. I can see you love to write as much as I do. Will look forward to your October 1st essay.

  106. I was very happy to read this timely blog. I am a newbie to the blog community and I really did start writing it to be cathartic to me……..yet I am constantly checking my stats to see if ANYONE is reading it! Sometimes there is no one, and then I doubt my capability, which is insane because who cares? This is to put my thoughts on paper and even possibly help someone going through the same thing! Good writing Chris!

  107. i can’t handle crticism very well… in school from teachers and at university from professors, yes. But today, as an adult, no. Especially about my job (i’m a translator). Directly from the client is ok. I can handle that. maybe i need a bit of a tougher skin!

  108. Thanks for the insight. I live in my own little blog bubble world. I didn’t even know there were “critique groups”. Now that I know there is such a thing, I think I will pretend like I don’t know they exist. :) My skin is not so thick.

  109. hi thank you for following my blog :)

  110. Awesome post, I find I am also of the opinion that you need to find what works for you. Good cc can be a valuable tool to help one grow and learn, but only if it is taken with a good grain of salt. You have to be able to adapt it t yourself and your own creative processes. :D

  111. Chris, I have to say how refreshing your article is! I’ve been involved in various things to do with creativity on the internet, including running a couple of forums for a while. My personal rule for any response to an example of somebody’s creativity was: Don’t criticise – give an honest critique! That rule seemed to work, most of the time.

    I fully agree with your attitude to critique groups (I’ve never been tempted to enter one involving my writing!) and Dean Koontz’s statement sums up why they can be downright dangerous.

    Wishing you good fortune with your writing,
    Steve :)

  112. Well said :) like everything creative i feel too many are squashed by unthinking supposedly helpful critiques … It is support and encouragement that grows creativity in people :) after all we are not robots churning out factory goods .. but unique and individual with a voice all our own :) im glad you didnt listen to your critical reviewers :)

  113. Well said Chris, and I’m glad you are sticking with your own voice, and not the voice others would give you.

Trackbacks

  1. Blog Hop | beginingsinwriting
  2. Critique Groups: Constructive or Destructive? | Chris Martin Writes | reflections upon reflections
  3. Critique Groups: Constructive or Destructive? | Chris Martin Writes | David Emeron: Sonnet Blog

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