Critique Group: Reasons to Join a Critique Group
By CaraMarie Christy
The decision to join a critique group can be a complicated one and not everyone is comfortable with presenting their work to others. Those who lack the ability to meet deadlines or plan ahead may struggle to prepare to critique other pieces or to make the time commitment to complete their own work. Nonetheless, critique groups are an excellent source of study and obligation for those who can commit to them. Here are some of the many transformative reasons a writer should join a critique group:
Habitual Sharing- Not all writers are confident in sending their work out to publishers and agents. A critique group can be seen as a smaller form of submission where a writer can get used to seeing their work pass through different hands. In this manner, being critiqued and judged becomes a habit that is no longer as scary and impossible to deal with.
Exposure- A critique group provides networking opportunities for writers. It takes an individual activity, writing, and turns it into a community event which can lead to potential job opportunities or the creation of a small fan base. The more people invested in a writer’s work, the easier it is to produce and market content.
Accountability- It’s much easier to ignore your deadlines when dealing with an editor on the opposite end of an email than it is when you are meeting someone face to face. A good number of writing jobs these days are done through telecommuting, which can lead to failing to realize the immediacy of a writing due date. Critics expect to be able to read the works that have been assigned for that revising period. While failing to meet deadlines in work can get a writer fired, failing to meet deadlines in critique group means having to go into workshop and watching the disappointment on every critic’s face. Critique groups are also great if a writer doesn’t have an editor or an agent, because it creates the sort of urgency that gets your writing done.
Building Confidence- A lot of writers struggle to maintain their “drive” while writing. That’s why writer’s block is such an oft-Googled term. Critique groups offer a place to “tear apart” a writer’s work, while also providing space to push a writer towards their end goal of completing that work. This minute examination of the details of an intimate creation is why it’s important to end critique groups by giving the writer a morale-boosting compliment or two.
Learning- This one is so much of a given that it almost doesn’t need to be said. But the fact is that critique groups are places to pool knowledge with other writers. If a critique group were ever collectively interested in seeing how much knowledge they’ve attained over the years, concept mapping is a good way of breaking down knowledge into chunks and creating a “knowledge” diagram. A writer can also gain a deeper understanding of their own work from using concept mapping. In a separate Cmap article, we show how the popular software aid CmapTools can be used from a writer’s standpoint.