Anyone who wants to become a serious writer really needs to consider joining a critique group.
In my early years of writing, I heard it and read it over and over again. You need to be a part of a critique group. I fought the idea for years, telling myself that I didn’t need it. A critique group is great for other writers, but I’m fine on my own. I work better by yself and I don’t need feedback from others. I worked like this for a long time.
About 5 years ago, I took a writing course at Conestog College in Kitchener, Ontario. One of the first things the instructor did was have us give a summary of the novel we were working on to the entire class. Gulp. I was terrified. I didn’t want to tell this group of complete strangers what I was writing. What if it sounded stupid to them? I hated every moment of it, but I got through it. The next thing she did was split us into critique groups based on the genre of novel we were writing. Gulp again. This wasn’t what I signed up for. I just wanted to learn what I needed to learn to become a better writer.
As it turns out, a critique group was the very thing I needed to become a better writer. The real truth is that I’d always shied away
from the idea of joining a critique group because I was quite self conscious about sharing my writing with anyone. I wasn’t happy about the idea that this was required for the course, but it ended up being one of the best things that came out it. It was through that writing course that I met Leanne and Sherry, who are to this day two of my dearest friends and writing buddies.
When the course finished, the three of us continued our group. Others have come and gone over the years. Another writer, Kelly, joined us a couple years back as well, and she has been a valuable addition to the group. We each have different strengths and by sharing our work and editing for one another we continuously learn and become better writers. We each have enormous respect for the writing and the opinions of the others. It’s great to have people of similar interest to share our disappointments and successes, and to help keep us motivated and inspired. This group and the people in it are probably the biggest reason that I am still writing today.
If you are a writer and think you don’t need a critique group, consider these benefits:
- Having regularly scheduled meetings keeps you motivated to write – you are accountable to someone other than yourself
- You are surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals and dreams
- You will be part of a support group who will encourage you and cheer you on when you might be ready to quit and are wondering why you still bother at all
- You will learn from the other writers and in the process become a better writer yourself
- You will be able to offer help to other writers who will benefit from your point-of-view and strengths
- It will help you develop the thick skin you need to continue pursuing your writing dream – the harsh reality is that writing is a tough business and it’s easy to get hurt feelings or have your dreams crushed when that rejection comes in
- You just might make some lifelong friends in the process.
These are just a few things off the top of my head. I’m sure if I thought about it long enough, I’d come up with a bunch more.
(Thanks Leanne, Sherry and Kelly for your friendship and support. I don’t know where I’d be today without you guys.)