A Tale of Three Critique Groups

Be so confident in knowing what you bring to the table you’re willing to eat alone until you find the right table.

 
Warning: This is not going to be a happy post.

I’ve been in three critique groups from the end of 2020 to now. One I formed, two I was invited to join. There were two more I helped form and turned over to others (both are non-US based and there were timezone and language issues which made regular exchanges with them challenging).

Let me be blunt.

  • Most people calling themselves writers have no hope of becoming international bestselling authors.
  • Most people calling themselves authors have no hope of becoming anything more than self-published wannabes.
  • Most people in critique groups want a pat on the head, a hug, and a rousing cheer of “Good for you! You put words together!” and not a serious critique of their work with the goal of improving their craft.

Some people proudly tell me they never pay for online courses and only take the free ones.

“How long you been doing that?”

A few years now.

“You been taking courses for a few years and your work still sucks this much? Put your money on the table now, honey, otherwise your work ain’t going nowhere.”

(you may enjoy the complete “Can I Be Honest About Your Writing?” series starting with Can I be honest about your writing? (Part 1 – Oh, the Vanity of it all!). I also talk about what makes a good critique in my interview starting at about 1:35m in)

What Makes Writing Worth Reading? Continue reading “A Tale of Three Critique Groups”

Professional Authors’ Groups

I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member
– Groucho Marx

 
Anybody know if there’s a 12-Step meeting for researchers? I need to get to one. “Hello, my name is Joseph. I’m a researcher.” “Hello, Joseph.”

A few weeks back I polled five-hundred authors with:

I’m looking into authors’ groups and organizations. Do you belong to any? If yes, your thoughts and opinions of it/them? And could you provide a link if you think them worthy?

Two-hundred-eighteen responded (just under half. I can provide percentages/numbers for other Researchers Anonymous members).

    General

  • Most people aren’t part of any author groups. The reasons varied from 1) cost to 2) unclear usefulness to 3) Covid followed by various scatterings. The “cost v usefulness” quadrant was most heavily populated. Most professional groups had upfront costs and that’s where “usefulness” dominated, a “what do I get for my money?” mood. I suspect (no substantial evidence, more based on conversations and email exchanges) as the industry matures (ie, as the gulf between serious authors and “Hey! I got a book published!” writers widens) a similar gulf between “Let’s get work done” and “Let’s have a party!” authors groups will occur.
  • Online groups dominated the responses and most people prefer online groups because nothing is required to participate. Also, few find online groups helpful with Goodreads groups standing out as least helpful (one person offered the discussions were painful). Most people offered they directed messages from these groups are directed to spammish buckets and rarely read them. I asked “What do you use the group for?” The answer usually came down to “To promote my books.” When asked, “Why don’t you do more with the groups?” the answers often came down to “It’s just people promoting their own books.” Budda-boom!
  • The following responses are based on 1) clustered responses (a significant number of responses clustered around a definable (binary) result and/or 2) the results were interesting although not statistically significant. My tendency to go for a binary (YES/NO) is because I can measure neither expectations nor satisfaction level while I can codify positive/negative response regardless of where they are on the positive/negative scale.

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Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death

Beware the Sayer of the Law

This is the last installment of a thread covering critiquing methods I’ve encountered in my writing career. This post is a catch-all for any workshop/critiquing group that hands you a list of rules you have to follow. I highlight three distinct types I’ve encountered.

Review
Finding a critique group that’s good for you is based on one question:

What is your goal/reason for being in a critique group?

 
My goal is simple and direct; improve my storytelling and storycrafting/increase my skill levels/learn my craft.

Rules
Any time or place a group of people get together for a single purpose, rules will apply. The best rules are those shaped by consensus and accepted democratically. They may be spoken, unspoken, written, tacked on a wall, handed out, understood, …
Continue reading “Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death”

Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Forced Positives/False Positives

Does it count if I say “I love the font you used!”?

This is the fourth installment of a thread covering critiquing methods I’ve encountered in my writing career. This post discusses a critiquing method wherein participants have to say something nice about a submission before they can critique it.

Review
Finding a critique group that’s good for you is based on one question:

What is your goal/reason for being in a critique group?

 
My goal is simple and direct; improve my storytelling and storycrafting/increase my skill levels/learn my craft.

You have to say something nice
These critique groups vary from “You have to say something nice first” to “You can only say nice things”. This format falls under a larger format I call “Ruled to Death”. The You have to say something nice format occurs so often I’m giving it its own post.

First thing; if a critique group has this rule in place, it’s probably a reaction to harsh and perhaps abusive activity. Get out while you can!
Continue reading “Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Forced Positives/False Positives”

Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – The Month Long Read

You’ve had it a month and all you can offer is “You use the word ‘blue’ a lot”?

This is the third installment of a thread covering critiquing methods I’ve encountered in my writing career. This post discusses a critiquing method wherein participants receive copies of work ahead of time (usually a month), read it, comment in writing, then meet to share their thoughts and suggestions once per month at which time they also provide the author with their written comments.

Review
Finding a critique group that’s good for you is based on one question:

What is your goal/reason for being in a critique group?

 
My goal is simple and direct; improve my storytelling and storycrafting/increase my skill levels/learn my craft.

Participants have a month to read and comment on a manuscript. No reading during the group (except for example purposes)
Most of my experience comes from groups like this. The majority of the sessions are devoted to critiquing. Socializing occurs after the critiquing session (although people often bring shareable munchies because the sessions are held in private homes or reserved rooms in libraries, et cetera).

The good is that people have had a month to read, comment, review their comments, come up with solutions to what they consider a problem, …, the negative is that people will get used to your style, genre, et cetera (something I mentioned in Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Read ’em and Weep).

Let me share an anecdote to demonstrate this.
Continue reading “Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – The Month Long Read”