Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Critique Group

Jennifer went to her first critique session...

Last week I talked about a new critique group in which I was invited to participate. I went to the first meeting this past Friday. All I can say is my brain hurts!

I arrived at the house of the hostess, and was the first one there. She is the only member of the group whom I don’t know, so we had about five minutes to introduce ourselves before the other two women arrived. Once everyone arrived, we had dinner and schmoozed. We talked about the industry, our families and they also asked questions about me.

Then we moved onto the critique. During the week, everyone had emailed their 15-20 pages to each other and we’d all read and marked up the copies. The host gets critiqued first. The rules are that you critique as a reader, meaning you don’t know what’s going to happen in the book beyond the pages you’re currently reading. The person being critiqued doesn’t respond and all critiques have to be constructive and positively framed. We each took turns critiquing the work and there could be no interruptions from anyone else.

We critiqued two people, took a break for dessert, and critiqued the other two. I expected to be embarrassed, with three people telling me what was wrong with my story. It was so much better than that, though! There definitely are stronger writers in the group than I am, but everyone had interesting perspectives and very good suggestions. Everything was framed very kindly and no one was embarrassed. There were many good things pointed out as well.

I came home with pages and pages of suggestions, as well as many, many things that they liked. As I’ve been going through the suggestions, I agree with some and disagree with others. But the changes I’m making will make my story stronger and I can’t wait for the next time!


  1. So pleased to hear it lived up to expectations, Jen. I'd love to belong to a group like that!

    1. Thanks Paula. It's tough, but really beneficial.

  2. Glad your first time was such a success.

    When we do group critiques at my RWA meetings, we follow some of the same rules: the owner of the mss doesn't respond or defend, but can ask a clarification question.

    I love participating in group critiques, both as a critique and the critique! I can only imagine how much more personal it would be with such a small, intimate group.

    Looking at all of the suggestions afterwards can be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes it's nice to let them sit for a while, and then go back to them. And as for agreeing or disagreeing, yes critiquers can be very helpful, but in the end it's your story and you need to write it the way you feel it needs to be written. Our rule of thumb is if only one person makes a comment on something, think it over and give it it's due...if a lot of people comment on something, it might be a good idea to take a really close look and figure out why it's not really working.

    Have fun!

    1. Yeah, I'm finding that out, Debra. I'm not following everything, but there are definite areas to work on.

  3. Very interesting report. Thank you.
    I think it would be equally educational to hear the other critiques. I've learned a lot from being in a crit group, albeit online. Intimate, in-person would be a dream. I've not been able to muster one locally. Writers must look down on romance, you know. Sniff.

  4. These women are all part of my local RWA chapter, and our chapter is large, so we have a number of romance writers around.