In part 2 of Learning the Lingo, we’ll briefly address critique groups. Here you’ll find necessary information to help you decide how and what type of group you’d like to be a part of.
My first encounter was with a Yahoo group called Kingdom Writers. I graduated then to WRITEHELP through another on-line group. As I improved I was invited to be a member of a private critique group. With each step of the process, I learned and moved ahead. The groups I participated in were kind. There are those who are not. So educate yourself. Know what to look for and what to veer from and you’ll find yourself with a network of wonderful people willing to help you improve your work.
Critique groups can be your best friend or your worst enemy, so before you engage heavily into one, think over these suggestions.
Where are you as a writer? Has your writing progressed enough that you can learn from a critique group? In other words, you should possess a good handle on the basics of writing. Once you have those down, stepping into a critique group can hone and polish your work.
Are you mature in your writing? Critique groups are meant to be “criticism.” If you are not mature and confident in your writing then a critique group will only serve to upset you. Maturity in writing means you can take the suggestions of your peers, weed out what is helpful, and discard the rest. It means not wearing your feelings on your sleeve, and coming to realize your peers are seeing with clear and distant eyes…eyes you may not be able to see through.
Does the critique group have varying degrees of writers? A critique group should house beginners, advanced, and published writers (if possible). The idea is that each person helps the other. Perhaps you are an advanced writer. You can help bring a beginning writer up a level and likewise with the published writer. They can bring the advanced writer up a notch. The published writer develops mentoring and teaching skills that will help them as they move into conference-level teaching.
If your critique group does not possess degrees of writers, your group will grow for a time then become stagnant because no one has anything new with which to challenge the group. Bring in various writers who can round out a group and continually keep growing its members.
Are the members tough but kind? Let’s face it. This is what gives critique groups a bad name…those few who become cocky and mean in their critiques. Writers’ groups are meant to promote camaraderie and a blending of talents, not become a brow beating session. If you leave a group feeling torn and broken, it’s time to evaluate your membership.
Solid writers’ groups will offer encouragement, help, and friendship. Its members will grow together and one by one, become published.
If there is not a group with a good mixture of writers, start small. Work online with other writers. It won’t be long until your local group will spread its wings. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Between your group and your practice, you’ll soar.
Join us in Part three as we learn about Publishing lingo.