Monday, October 5, 2009

Benefits of Critique Partners/Groups

After a long break, I'm excited that my critique group, The Pearl Girls, are getting back into the swing of critiquing. It got me thinking about what I've missed.

1) Their stories, and the unique voice that each of them has.

2) Mini-brainstorming--When it's not your own story, brainstorming is all the more fun. When a section's pace is lagging, or conflict seems to be weak, that's when critique partners tend to pull out their brainstorming hats and offer ideas in those cute little comment boxes. I love receiving them from my critique partners, because often they are the answer to prayers.

3) Grammar guru. I'm bad with grammar, but one of my critique partners is the master. Thanks Patti!

4) Keeping a schedule. By making rounds of submissions, we know when our own fifteen pages need to be ready.

5) Growing as a writer. Through editing other's work you do hone your craft, just as much probably as you do by receiving constructive criticism from those who may be eons beyond you in this journey. Seeing what works and how it works is as educational as learning how to fix your own writing. And by looking at in small sections, you have the opportunity to do some dissecting and really see how it works.

6) Sharing the struggle. Writing is a solitary endeavor by large, but when you work with a critique group, friendships form, and they form with people of like minds and like understanding. It's a gift!

There are many more benefits to having a critique partner/group to work with, but what about hiring a professional editor? Is there value in that? I'll talk more about professional edits on Wednesday.

If you're a member of a critique group, what is the greatest benefit you receive from yours? If you don't have a critique partner or group, are you hoping that changes soon, or is writing solo the best way for you?


Surrendering to Him,

Eileen

38 comments:

Jessica said...

I think it's similar. My crit partners are good at finding flaws in my logic or sentences, things that totally go over my head. LOL I'm glad you guys got back into the swing of things! Crit partners are priceless, imo.

Jessica said...

I think my benefits are similar. That's what I meant. LOL

Katie Ganshert said...

Similar benefits. I especially like the friendship that comes through the process. My crit partner is a fabulous lady, and I'm glad to have the privilege of knowing her. :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Others' eyes and brains are invaluable to gain perspective. This is also why God made us a body, not to operate on our own. Writing books and whupping the devil are similar: we need all the help we can muster!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I love that members of my group catch what I miss. They also look at my stories from a unique perspective.

~ Wendy

Warren Baldwin said...

I'm in the midst of forming one. We are hoping for some of these benefits you speak of here.

Georgiana said...

I LOVE the encouragement that comes from my 2 crit buds (Erica and Betsy) and the gentle way they show me where/how I can improve.

The Pearl Girls--great name!

Diane said...

I am just learning the benefits of involving others. Glad to have friends to lift me up and support my dreams as I support theirs. :O)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Definitely all those great benefits you mentioned--and because we'll push and challenge each other to sit on our butts and just write. Then we report our progress to each other. :)

Wendy Love said...

Eileen,
I am still praying for that critique group/partner you talk about. I have joined ACFW and look forward to see what that can do for me. I will let you know how I make out.

Erica Vetsch said...

Yep, I love my crit buddies. They point out so many of my 'Oh, Duh!' moments.

Jody Hedlund said...

You sound like you have a wonderful crit. group. I know we talked a little bit at the conference about the benefit of having crit partners who write your genre or understand what you write. I think that would be very important to me, to have a crit group of historical writers. But I'm sure there are benefits to having writers outside your genre too! But I'm wondering which is THE most beneficial?

christicorbett said...

I like participating in a critique group because...

1. They know what a writer "goes through" to get words on the page.

2. They come at my work with a fresh pair of eyes, and ideas. Many a plot twist has been unearthed after a writing group session.

3. I write historical fiction and rely heavily on research. They tell me when my "facts" are overshadowing the storyline.

New to your site, and really like it.
Thanks again!
Christi

Cindy said...

I think the biggest benefit has been the support. But there are so many other wonderful things that have come out of having a critique group. Friendship and perspective and new ideas. I love my group.

Tamika: said...

Eileen, I pray that I found a place for guidance soon. I found a group in my City that live.

What puzzles me is that we don't really critique each others work. It's more of a gathering place where different speakers/authors come in and give varying information concerning craft.

I do agree to the importance of other people looking at your work.

Blessings to you...

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hi Eileen - I love your thoughts here because I too greatly appreciate my critique partners! I think the greatest benefit I get, in addition to the ones you mentioned, is that they see things my glazed eyes missed. When I have my manuscript nearly memorized, they approach it with a fresh perspective.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Eileen,

What a fitting topic for me! I have a wonderful critique partner, but she's become very busy lately. However we do try to meet every other week.

What I'd like to do is try some on-line critquers as well. I'd like to get more than one opinion of my work. I think the more people that see it, the greater the benefit. And in return, the more you help another writer with their work, the more you learn yourself.

How does your group work? Do you meet in person or is it a cyber-group? Any advice you have on how to find new partners in crime would be great.

Glad you have such a great group!

Sue

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

I learned a lot from this post today. Didn't realize all the great benefits of having critique partners who know what you are going through and can help you brainstorm. I can see that having fellow authors as critique partners would bring a whole new perspective. Thanks for an insightful post.

Lazy Writer said...

I think you summed it up pretty well. I love my crit partners. I've learned so much from them.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Wow, lots of great input here. Thanks guys.

Jody, in my opinion, a historical writer would need at least one other historical writer in their group to truly benefit the most. The research issues alone would call for another set of eyes to verify that you're being true to the time. But you can gain lots from critiquing other genres than your own, but certainly it's great to have people who write in the same genre within your group.

Tamika, it sounds like you belong more to a writer's group than a critique group. Perhaps you could form a critique group out of that?

In mine, we vary, three write romance (one of those writes historical romance, but the later years, not the really early ones), another writes Women's Fiction, and another writes mystery/suspense stories--eerie ones, too, I might add, but she's great at it.

Susan, we are an on-line group only. I'm the only Canadian, we have one Aussie, and three Americans, so getting together in person doesn't work. I'd suggest writer's groups for finding partners, personally.

Heather Sunseri said...

Hi, Eileen. This is a subject I think about quite often. I was wondering the same thing as Jody, so I enjoyed your response to her.

I don't currently have a critique group, but it could be in the plans. We'll see. I'm super curious to hear what you have to say about professional editors.

Great post!!

Tamara (TC) Staples said...

I have always thought I worked better solo but your post is causing me to rethink that. If I would find an online group, it might be worth giving it a try.

Jill Kemerer said...

My favorite part of the crit. group I'm in is reading such great writing. They are very talented, and when I read their work, it gives me insight on how to make my own better.

I laugh when they're trying to be nice and point out my repetitive word issues. Cracks me up every time!

I also really enjoy getting to know them and being able to share the ups and downs of the process. It's truly a blessing.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Great post. I love my crit partners. I prefer that they not write in my genre, because I find it more enjoyable to have strong individual voices in a group. When we write in different genres, it's easier to avoid undue influence on voice from one crit partner to another.

Natalie said...

My critique group has been beneficial in all of the ways you mentioned. I think sharing the struggle is the best thing about a writing group. It's nice to have camaraderie with people who know exactly what you are going through.

sherrinda said...

I loved this post and thoroughly enjoyed the comments. I have been thinking that I really should take advantage of ACFW critique groups. I have my dad, who is editing my ms, but he does not do romance. I think it would add to my learning experience to have others in my genre look at my work.

How did you find your group?

Stephanie Faris said...

I know it's probably wrong but critique groups hose me up. I just freeze...and my writing starts to go stale. I start writing more for them than myself...and I lose my love for it. So I've had to cut myself off from that...for now. Maybe someday I'll find a crit. group that doesn't do that!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

I go to a writers' group once a month, and I have a couple of online friends, who critique on request. Since the online folks are so busy, I try not to overload them.

I haven't been in the type of group you described. Is it a huge time commitment?

Thanks for another interesting post.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Tamika: said...

I hear so many benefits to critique groups. I am planning to join ACFW this month and I pray that will open some dorrs in this area.

I would love a second pair of eyes.

Blessings to you...

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

my fav of my crit partner is the idea bouncing. a phone call is all it takes. :)

if you don't already know:

I wanted to let you know about my blog address change. *sigh* If you're following me, my posts now won't show up in your feed, dashboard, sidebar, whatever. So please forgive me, but you'll have to change the address for my main writing blog, Where Romance Meets Therapy, to http://jeanniecampbell.blogspot.com. To do this, you have to "unfollow" me and follow me again. Sorry for the confusion!

Jeannie
The Character Therapist

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Rosslyn, that's so interesting that you connect voice with genre. I know that chick lit calls for a strong sassy type voice, but all other genres to me seem to have varying voices within. I'll have to watch for this as I read, you've got me curious as to what is the commonality in the other genres now.

Sherrinda, my group sort of evolved. Via the ACFW forum, I found Patti Lacy through Camy Tang, and then she found a Becky Melby and two others at conference. Eventually the other two decided they had to set writing aside, and Patty and Lee came on at different times through various connections. The ways to find crit partners is endless, and I'd suggest a blog to be a great way to crit partner shop and test. It doesn't take long to know if you click or not.

Stephanie, Crit partners/groups is definitely not for everyone and I know many published authors who never had one, but for a lot of us, it is a huge blessing to run this journey with like minds. You need to do what works best for you, and it sounds like you're at that place!!!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Susan, it does take time to crit your partners submissions, but we stick to 15 double space pages and only one submits on Monday's, the next on Wednesday, and then not again until the following Monday. So that's two crits a week, and when yours is in the submission, then you only have one to critique that week, but you gain four wonderful critiques of your own work too. In my opinion the benefits of learning from your partners stories and their writing, and what they offer you in your submissions far outways the time commitment.

Beth said...

Hi Eileen! Thanks for coming by my blog and for following! This is such a great post, because I just joined a critique group, and I'm excited to finally get some feedback. Glad that you are able to meet with your ladies again, sounds like a great group!

Lee said...

I agree, the value of a good critique group is highly underestimated. Not only do they pick up errors or things that don't quite work, when you get it right it's nice to have the pat on the back. My crit group is wonderful, but you knew that didn't you??

Keli Gwyn said...

Eileen, I'm glad your critique group is getting back into action. I'm sure you've missed both the feedback as well as the friendship.

I have two awesome CPs. One is more of a detail reader like I am, whereas the other is a big picture gal. Makes for a great team.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Lee, I do know indeed!! Thanks for stopping by!

Amy De Trempe said...

I absolutley love my critique group. I have learned so much from them. From their comments and from reading their chapters. I don't think I would be published if I wasn't a part of this great group. Since this group came together five have gone on to published or will have a book out soon. The rest are getting requests from contests and queries so I have to think we are doing something right.

quietspirit said...

Eileen:
I have been involved in a writing group since 1999. I have had two extended time frames when I couldn't attend. During those times I didn't write very much. Being in this group has allowed me to venture out and attend conferences and now, speak to groups.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I usually post one Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Stop in when you can.