Critique groups are funny business. I've been in two, one successfully (well, at least at first), and the other, well, let's just say it didn't go so great.

I want to have a group of writers I can trust, but where to find them, I'm not certain anymore.

What makes a good group for writers? Well, maybe I should touch on the things that are not so cool.

  • People you can't trust. I'm not just talking copycats. I'm talking about those people you meet that the pit of your gut tells you to stay away - for whatever reason. (Typically, it's a good reason. Don't stick around to find out.)
  • Mean-spirited turds who want to make everyone else believe they suck as writers. Yeah, I've dealt with some of those. If you want to get into the psychology of these people, it's the same as those you meet in the workplace who try to keep you from succeeding. They are terrified that you are better than they are, therefore, they must do all they can to sabatoge your confidence and purposefully give you bad advice. (In my humble opinion, of course.)
  • Age differences. In my last critique group, I found that age differences caused problems when people would read some work. (I personally experienced this on a romantic short story in written in the Bridget Jones vein.) Unaware of the Miss Brig generation, and still thinking in terms of story archs from 30+ years ago, these folks offered little in creative development and frankly, just didn't want to know what was new, different and exciting in the particular genre today. Yeah, like 21st century today.
  • Inconsistency. Irregular meeting times, people who don't get their online critiques done on time. (Sure, sometimes life happens, but it should not interfere every week. If it does, take a sabatical, K?) You must have consistency.
  • Wannabees. They lurk in every corner, at conferences, book stores, book signings, writing group meetings. These folks talk about being writers. They wannabe a writer when they grow up. They are 80 years old and, after 20 years, are still organizing their office to write. They can offer nothing significant other than their woe-is-mes on how they just can't seem to get their life together to finish that first novel.

Now, I live in a rural area where people don't know the definition of "author." (No joke. The concept is so foreign to them, their eyes begin to glaze over when you mention visits to the library.) Where to find serious writers for feedback? Online. Been there. Done it. Willing to try again if I find the right mix of people.

I had a great group once before, when I lived in southern Missouri. We had a consistent sked, honest feedback and trustworthy participants. Well, at least until the turds in #2 came along. Then, we had to dismantle because people did not want to share their work anymore.

Our group tried it online, but life got in the way, and the short vacation we took in December has taken on monumental proportions. (i.e., I doubt we can get it together again after all this time.)

I know there are some great writers out there - writers who could give me honest, edgy feedback on my work. Where to find them? Well, I'm still searching...

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Comment by Marilyn Meredith on July 12, 2007 at 2:05pm
I've been very fortunate to have been in the same critique group for over 20 years. The people have changed from time to time and the way we do things.

When I first started with this group, though I had written two full length historical fiction novels I was pretty naive--and didn't know a whole lot.

Fortunately, there were two or three wonderful writers in the group who took the time to mentor me. One in particular--a woman about ten years older than I was. She was multi-published in non-fiction but knew how to critique and make great suggestions.

Though people fell away, she and I kept the group going. Several of the same kind of people you mentioned came and went.

Sadly, my mentor moved away--but she still runs three critique groups at her new home.

I'm still with the same group, though the people have changed. Fortunately for me, the members now are supportive, not afraid to make criticisms and great suggestions. I'd be disappointed if they didn't tell me what I needed to fix. I use it as a first editing. That doesn't mean I agree with everything, but their comments make me think.

Being a critique group is very important to me. Though, as you said, you definitely need the right people. I've gone from being among the youngest to the oldest--but I don't think that's made any difference.

Fortunately, I have a big family and I'm around young people enough to know what's going on.

You had some great comments about critique groups--hope you end up with some fellow writers who will be honest with you about your writing.


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