Why do you think a critique group is important?
January 23, 2013 | Written by Chip MacGregor
Someone sent this: “You often encourage writers at conferences to join a critique group. But I joined one at a conference last year, and I didn’t think it helped much at all. I’m published, nobody else in the group is, and I didn’t really feel the others in the group gave me much help or offered a lot of insight. Why do you think a critique group is important?”
Well, if you’re a good writer, and you’re in a critique group with bad writers, I think it’s fair to question if that’s beneficial. Perhaps that’s why most writers, once they attain some measure of success, often leave their critique groups and look for a writing partner or mentor.
HOWEVER, I’d have three thoughts for you.
First, there’s probably value in listening to what others have to say, even if you’re not sure they have great craft. Some excellent writing teachers are just okay writers — their lack of craft doesn’t mean they have nothing to say on the topic. So consider at least going through the process for a while. As we Scots say, “Learn to unpack a rebuke.”
Second, look for a better writer in the group, so that you’ve got one person in the group you can listen to, and whom you can help. Then pay attention to what they have to say, and do your best to try and help him or her improve. That will build your trust.
Third, by all means search for one writer (perhaps at a conference or workshop) who is ahead of you a bit. Find a writer who is a bit farther down the path, and develop a friendship. That would give you someone to go to, to share your work with, and to offer you advice. You’ll have to be patient with this one — nearly every good writer is bombarded with requests for help (though it’s usually “help by introducing me to your editor or agent”). Relationships take time, and are built on wisdom and trust. But given time, you’ll find having good writers in your life nearly always pays off.
Hope this helps.