Critiquing the Critique Group

One of the best things I’ve done in the past year to improve my writing is join a critique group.  I found this group through the London Writers Society which meets twice a month in a small library in the heart of the city.  And I’ve found many benefits.

I get to meet and talk with other people who enjoy what I enjoy.  We go on the odd writing-oriented field trip.  Regular meetings keep my head in the writing game.  But most of all I relish the twice monthly meetings of my critique group.

Of course joining one of these took some courage as I knew no one and there is no stripping sensation quite like baring your writing soul for strangers.  Ones whose faces you are looking at and whose pens are writing as you read.  Definitely a little intimidating.  That being said the benefits are definitely there for anyone who wants to give critique groups a try.

Our last meeting was the best for me.  Not because there were only two of us and we’re both historical fiction babes, but because my writing partner said something that really hit home.  Ruth suggested that I could make my reader feel closer to my main character by using ‘she’ instead of ‘Lucy’ when describing what Lucy is doing or thinking or saying.  Here is an example:

“Lucy sat against the log and stroked the whimpering Harper John in her arms, her eyes on the soldier the whole time.”

I changed it to:

“She sat against the log and soothed the whimpering Harper John in her arms, her eyes on the soldier the whole time.”

Using Lucy’s name suggests a narrator point of view but dispensing with as many Lucy’s as I can, brings the reader into Lucy’s thoughts, her point of view.  This is hard to see in this one sentence example but the effect of this in a novel is significant.

My critique group, then, is working well for me as its members continually make me think and reconsider.  It has not always been so.  Two other groups were not useful to me as the members knew less than I did.  Great people, fine friends but I needed to be challenged.  My advice then?  Find a group of people who like your genre and who know more about it than you do.

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6 thoughts on “Critiquing the Critique Group

  1. Finding a crit group has been a struggle for me. I tried one with other genres besides romance, and it wasn’t good fit. Now I have two cp’s instead. One local and one long distance. My local one may develop into a larger group, we’ll see. I wish we could attract authors with more experience, but then they are looking for the same thing and that’s not us! I’d love to know what sort of writerly field trips you take. That sounds fun!

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  2. Hi Jessica, thanks for visiting!
    Interesting that your experience is close to mine. Yet another instance that shows we are not as unique as we think.
    We have visited several forts in New York state and Ontario for my current book, Loyal to the Crown. This book is set in 1778 and follows a young Loyalist couple in the American Revolutionary War; hence, the wonderful forts. It’s great to have a reason to hit the road and discover our two countries both in the past and present.

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  3. I just stumbled across this through the ‘writing’ tag, and it has definitely been thought provoking! I am very solitary writer, and hardly every have the chance to share my work with others, so a critique group sounds like a good step out of my scribbling solipsism. How did you find a the group that suits you so well? I’m based in Edinburgh at the moment and wondering where/how to start looking…

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    • Hello! Glad to have you on board. I had to go out of my smaller city to London, Ontario. There I found London Writers Society online, went to a few meetings, and finally asked to join a critique group. And the rest, as they say, is history. Surely Edinburgh must have a wonderful writers group. Also some of my fellow members belong to online critique groups. I haven’t done that yet but it could be a great solution. Good Luck!

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  4. I don’t know where I’d be without my critique group. The perspective they bring is amazing. Little things, big things and all things in between. Glad you found a group near home that you click with, Elaine.

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