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They Don't Know Shit!

Um, yeah actually they do. You know why? Because *you* haven't even told me who 'they' is. So don't start getting into a hissy fit just because a member of a critique group you joined told you you were doing something wrong. Its unbecoming of a future bestseller and a friend, and I think we all know that.

I'm not saying everyone takes critiques badly, but I've seen my fair share in person and online, and really? It isn't pretty. It's worse in person, because there isn't the sense of anonymity and distance as on a critique website. You know these people, they become your friends, and they are READING your STUFFS. LOOKING for PROBLEMS.

You need people to be your professional editor, your reader, and a true friend, the kind who won't tell you "No, those jeans don't make you look fat" when your muffin top is epic. (Side Note: I ask the most no-nonsense mom for the truth, and they always give it to me.) Generally the people you trust to critique your work and be honest about it are friends, or at the very least good writers themselves.

And yet, you don't always get that with critique groups. There are people more and less advanced in the craft than you, all with different personalities. Codependents, Crusaders, Naive Novices, Overly Eager Beavers, and hopefully a few Wise Sages. I'm a novice, and so I know I still have a LOT to learn about my writing process, my craft, and how to make my work publishable. I am confident enough in myself and my work to be open to criticisms, so long as they're constructive.

But what do you do when a novice who's writing is so far below par than your own insists on telling you your work has all the problems hers does?

I encountered this myself, and it annoyed me and had me pitying the poor writer. It was nice when the others defended my work, but I so wanted to pull out my red pen and show her where she'd gone wrong in her own work. I didn't. I nodded and smiled, said it was just the rough draft and I'd certainly fix the problems during revisions. But she didn't stop at just me, going after everyone who had something to offer to the group. The strain on the others was physically apparent by the end.

The next day I went on the forum to see when the next meeting would be. Lo and behold, the novice newcomer had rated our group, leaving a comment saying that while it was nice to get out and meet people, our group was nowhere near the level of craftsmanship she'd hoped and would not be returning. I confess I breathed a sigh of relief. This is the tough part about Critique Groups. Its hard to find one that works for you, one you click with and don't feel like your being attacked or overlooked. I decided in the end I really liked the Writing Buddies I'd made online, and so I don't go the the Writers Group as often.

But its worth it, finding these people, or else you'll never grow as a writer. A writer needs to find other writers to trust, to read and be honest on their opinions, but they also need to be able to take the critiques. Even if you don't agree with them, a good critique partner will know its just their opinion and not a slight on them if you don't take up their suggestions. I have those buddies, and I trust them, and myself, to be honest with my work. Its why basically every author leaves their first draft in a locked drawer for, on average, 3-6 weeks. You need distance to see your writing objectively, and to realize your Writing/ Critique Buddy may actually be telling you the truth.

If you haven't already, find a Writing Group or Buddy and put yourself out there. Might as well get used to the criticism now, because if you get published, there will always be a hell of a lot more of them.



3 Comments

  1. So true! It's really important to have people you trust tell you their gut feelings on your work. It helps you grow and makes you a stronger writer. And that same cheering section will be there for you when you get less than perfect reviews - which happens to everybody.

    Great post, Brittany! :)

  2. Sara ♥ says:

    This is exactly why I don't join crit groups! I'm already in a creative writing workshop class (the instructor is amazing) and I can't tell you how many people in the class go out of their way to trash other writers' work. You just have to weed out the ones who actually have something constructive to offer from the ones who think they sound more intelligent by tearing down other people.

    And, a crit group could be different - if everyone's taking it for exactly that: critiques. A lot of people in the class I'm in are taking it toward credit (I'm not) so that may also have something to do with it...

  3. @Cari Quinn - That's what I love about my writing buddies! They don't just cheer me on, they make me a better writer, all while being my friends.

    @Sara - That was the hard thing for me, the rudeness and the "better than thou" ness. There are two types I've encountered: the ones who want to 'help' everyone and those who think no one can be helped. Thankfully one of my NaNo buddies mentioned another group so much more to both of our liking.

    A crit group should be intimate, open and honest, and comprised of people who can take critiques as well as give them. Lets hope we can find ones that we click with! ^_^

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