WRITING TIPS – #1Critique Groups

The very first writing tip I want to discuss is not a certain technique, routine, or pitfall. It’s critique groups. Once I have consulted my writing books and polished my story until I think it’s the next To Kill a Mockingbird, what will keep me from uploading it to Kindle while it still has four misspellings, two vague and sleep-inducing chapters, and an unintentionally racist remark? My critique group.

My critique group meets, in general, once a week for two or three hours. Each of us brings copies of about five pages of whatever we’re working on, and then we take turns reading our pages aloud while everyone else follows along with their red pens uncapped and hovering over the words. Yes, we cringe when we see four pens drop simultaneously and scratch scratch scratch, but the corrections are made in love. And they’re usually exactly right. “This character would never say this.” “In the last chapter he had green eyes.” “This whole paragraph needs to go.”

On my team, I have Robin, who won’t let me get away with lazy flashbacks, Sandy, who always notices when I use the same word twice in two consecutive sentences, Jeanne, who can rephrase a sentence to make it much clearer, and new Robin, who never forgets to say what she loves about it.

So how can you find a great group? I first joined Redwood Writers, my local branch of California Writers Club. Within the club I asked around about critique groups and begged (actually I had a friend beg) to be let into a group of more experienced writers than me. I have heard of people who had to drop out of their groups because the other members were unsupportive or unreliable, but my group treated me great and gave helpful advice right off the bat. And if I let them critique this blog, they’d tell me that I use the word “group” too much, and that the cliche “right off the bat” has got to go. Which reminds me, I am much better at editing my own work now that I have their little voices in my brain.

Want motivation and help? My number one tip is to join a critique group. Ask me a question about critique groups or give your own advice about them in the comments!


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