I used to be in several critique groups. They are a fabulous resource for writers of all levels, and I encourage anyone who is seriously interested in writing to be involved in a critique group. Unfortunately, as with any group or communal effort, a critique group requires effort and patience – sort of like a group of friends or your family. I don’t mean for that to sound negative, but when you make a commitment to a critique group, you need to live up to that commitment or you’re letting the whole group down.
There are plenty of people who come to critique groups only when they want their work read, and not when they don’t have something to share. I learn just as much, and sometimes more, when I read other writers’ work than when my own is read. There are also those who show up only to hear you tell them something good, like “I love this piece,” or “It’s so realistic the way you describe the dentist,” or whatever. The minute you tell them, “You’ve switched verb tenses in the middle of the paragraph,” or “You have a point of view slip here,” they are out the door – typically muttering nasty comments under their breath or posting them on their blogs.
Then there are the “I don’t have anything to read this time,” members, who never seem to have anything to share in group. Sometimes this is simply because they are not writing at the moment, and sometimes it’s a paranoia thing, like they are afraid someone in the group may steal their amazing idea and use it. Of course, some of these are also just happy to be in the company of writers without really aspiring to be writers themselves, but they are fairly rare.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from these people are the people with whom I’m about to join. We have all been in groups before, though not always with each other. We have all published, with one exception and she’s about to be published (by Simon & Schuster, if I’m not mistaken). And we have all agreed to a specific format that will allow for each of us to read on alternating months. Not reading, or not participating in the critique will result in that person being asked to leave the group so another member can join (and yes, we already have a waiting list). The rules are pretty tough, but we are all very serious about this. So I’m back into a group, something I haven’t had in nearly five years, and I am eagerly anticipating our first meeting. We will get together on the third Wednesday of each month. The first two people to be critiqued have already sent their manuscripts to us, so we are well on our way. It is exciting to be connected to these people and to have their input on my work. I’m eager to meet those I haven’t met and to renew contact with those I have not seen for a while.
And now I need to get to work on what I’m going to submit.