Weathering the Moods of a Critique Group

I’ve written before about my critique group and how much I enjoy being a part of it. We are a group of four (although we started as a group of two) and we meet every other week; the goal is for each person to submit something for critique the week before we meet.

Lately, that hasn’t been happening as much as we’d all like.

So we’ve been trying to figure out what to do about it.

  • Should we meet once a month instead of every other week?
  • Should only two people submit each time?
  • Should we take the summer off?

Last Thursday we met and critiqued each other’s writing. Then we talked through our “slump” and decided what to do about it. We each have our own reasons for not being as consistent as we have been in the past.

We each re-committed to the critique group in our own way.

We decided to keep the format the same: we will continue to meet every other week and we are all going to try to submit by midnight the Saturday before our next meeting.

For myself, I know if we don’t meet, I’m much less likely to spend any of my writing time on fiction. I love writing fiction and I feel like I’m learning a lot so I don’t want to let it go. The external accountability really helps me get my butt in the chair and the words on the page.

And even if I don’t submit, I still find reading another writer’s work valuable. Noticing what works for me and what doesn’t in someone else’s WIP is very useful. It’s so much easier for me to look at another person’s piece and answer questions like, “What is the goal of this scene? What is the motivation of this character in this scene?”

The more I do that, the more I can see the goals and motivations of my own characters.

Plus, I get to support other writers. I can’t wait to see my fellow writer’s words in print—I know that day is coming for each of the members of the group and I will have a front row seat for the whole wonderful ride.

Our critique group is like any other relationship: it takes work. But, as in my other important relationships, the benefits far outweigh the effort I put into it.

Do you have a critique group (or partner?) How have you weathered the changes in your group?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, mother, stepmother, and doctor. I’m enjoying my writing more these days because I have an attitude of “whatever I get done is good enough,” and that allows me to write in small pockets of time that in the past I thought “weren’t enough.” All those little pockets are starting to add up!

 

23 thoughts on “Weathering the Moods of a Critique Group

  1. I’m envious! Of your group and you youth. Good choice to keep meeting. I aspired to writing fiction. I belonged to a writing group that met once a month. Our facilitator has a degree in fiction writing and is published, Kay Dacus. She gave us excellent instructions and I learned many skills and techniques from her. Some people partnered for critique in this group. Now there are 3 new published fiction authors from the group, Patrick Carr, Kathy Harris, Krista Phillips. Others who started the group are published as well, Tamara Leigh, Tamera Alexander, Joan M. Hochstetter. All are members American Christian Fiction Writer’s.

  2. Pingback: Writing groups, and finding time to write – franceskraft

    • Hi franceskraft,
      Thanks for mentioning my post! And, yes, I think small pockets of time are underrated! I get a lot done in those short spans!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  3. I’m new to critique groups. I’m in two…preferring one as I’m getting use to how others critique and learning the skill myself. One member of one group only gives a one or two line critique while another may comment on every paragraph (it’s a picture story).. it takes some getting use to. I prefer not so many in a month. I think doing more than one is really time consuming and I’m just not ready yet.

    • Hi orthodoxmom3,
      It’s great to try new things! I think it’s great to try out two different groups to see which is a better fit for you. I’ve been in many over the years. It does take getting used to, but I find the feedback invaluable.

      Good luck with your writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

    • Hi Paintings with Bob,
      I wrote a post about how to choose a critique group for this blog. It’s called “Finding a Critique Group,” and if you plug the title into the search at the top of the page, you can find it. I hope you find it helpful.

      Warmly,
      Diane

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience with your critique group. It’s refreshing to know that my critique group is not the only one who struggles with these things. It’s discouraging when some members of the group aren’t submitting work and/or aren’t finding the time to critique the work of others.

    Like your group, we seem to ebb and flow and, lately, we seem to be flowing again!

    We all just need to hold each other accountable. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to slack off (part of the human condition, I suppose).

    Great post! I enjoyed the read. 🙂

    • Hi Shawny Lou,
      I agree! We’re in it for the long haul, and it’s normal that sometimes other things will take precedence. For me, just having the meetings makes me more accountable!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  5. You know, I like the idea of a critique group as opposed to a writers’ group. I was in a writers’ group for two years and it was a great experience. But it lacked focus. I think it’s why we started to fall apart after awhile. We started out with three then grew to eight, and I think that was our downfall. Then a few of us moved, lives changed. I truly began to feel like I was the only one who really looked forward to our meetings. If I could do it again, I would keep it to five minimum and have writers of similar genre. Happy for you and yours, though!

    • Hi seanpfarley,
      Thanks for your good wishes! I’ve been in writer’s groups and critique groups in the past that didn’t work for me, and I agree, number of participants does make a difference. If you can’t find a critique group, you can always start one of your own. The group I’m in now was originally two people, for at least a year, and now we are four. Four is a good size and I also think five would be the maximum.

      Happy writing!

      warmly,
      Diane

  6. I think a critique group is an awesome idea, especially for writers, who’d love to get feedback on their writing! In Germany (where I’m living) there are a few critique groups, but not many, so thanks for your post about your experience – I just started thinking about founding such a group, because I think it’s very useful… If you have any other advice besides the ones you already mentioned, you can tell me if you want. 😉

    • Hi hideandseek411,
      I think starting your own critique group is a great idea. I’ve blogged about how I’ve done it in the past (search this blog for “Finding a Critique Group,” and “Finding and Creating a Critique Group You Love.”)

      I hope you find the posts useful. Good luck!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  7. I’m part of a fantastic critique group. We met every other week, but as the holidays hit, interest began to wane, and we decided to take a hiatus. We’ve had members come and go over the years, and are a very small group, and the only thing that’s kept us together, really, is that we keep trying. A hiatus is usually the death knell, so we made a point of actually trying to start again.

    Then in February, we started up again, but once a month instead of once a week.

    • Hi Alison,
      I’m so glad you have found a great group to work with. And yes, the hiatus can be the end–so it’s great that your group started up again. However you can make it work, I think it’s a valuable experience.

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  8. I am in two critique groups. One meets once a month and is very structured. Our facilitator keeps us on task and we each have 5 minutes to make comments. The group is fairly large. At our meeting this last week, there were 10 of us there. A total of 18 are on our email list, so the meetings can be large if everyone decides to show up.

    The other critique group is much looser with very little structure. The members are not consistent. It is run by a self-publishing company that spreads the word on Facebook. There are a few “regulars” but several newcomers at each meeting. If we choose to have our work read and critiqued, we make 10 copies and the leader distributes them at the meetings. If we have more than 10 people, not everyone reads the same manuscript and it can get confusing.

    I am also in a writers’ group which I love. I have been with this group for 16 years. There are 6 of us and we are a generative group, meaning, we use prompts at each meeting and “generate” new material. Several people have had short stories published based on our prompts. We gather to hone our skills and to provide support. We share information about publishers, potential markets and other news in the writing world. Our genres range from children’s books to non-fiction short story, to young adult to inspirational to novel writing. I think we work well because none of us are in competition with the others.

    In my blog, “I Write, Therefore I Am,” I wrote an entry about all the different writing groups I have belonged to in the past 20 years. Check it out at http://www.sgradybristol.wordpress.com

    • Hi suebee51,
      Thanks for telling us your experience with critique and writer’s groups. It’s great to hear what other people are doing–gives the rest of us ideas!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

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