Critique Groups: Proceed with a Purpose

If you want to start a critique group or have an existing critique group, are you clear on what the purpose of your critique group is? This may be a puzzling question at first, since obviously the mission of your critique group is to provide critiques. But is that specific enough to attract a group of writers who share the same intention for a critique gathering?

Here is a sample set of questions to get you thinking about possible critique group purposes:

  • Do you want to start a group of new writers, OR writers who have drafted at least one complete novel, OR writers who are published?
  • Do you want a critique group that tends toward all business when you gather, or do you want a critique group that allows more time for general support and encouragement?
  • Do you want a critique group focused on building specific writing skills: i.e., this week we focus on plot, this week we focus on character, etc.?
  • Or do you want to create a critique group focused on writing cross-culturally? E.g., your group reads an article or blog post on writing cross-culturally and then brings writing samples for critique where the writers have applied the learnings from the reading?
  • Or maybe you want to create a critique group that has an hour for writing/responding to a prompt, and then the rest of the meeting time is reading those short passages/prompt responses.
  • Or perhaps you want an inspiration focused critique group? E.g., one meeting is an Artist Date kind of outing, the next meeting designated for critiquing writing samples inspired by that outing?

Any and all of the above, as well as variations not yet imagined, qualify as a critique group.

Once you have a clear purpose in mind for your critique group, write it down and communicate it. If you are an existing critique group without a clear purpose statement, you might take one meeting to work this out as a group. 

Why is purpose important? It helps a group stay on point. It decreases the likelihood of  group members getting frustrated because of differing expectations, i.e., why the group is gathering/what they are expecting to get out of it.  A clear purpose will also save you time when your group is open to new members, as potential members will self-select out of applying if your group’s purpose does not match their goals for being in a critique group. 

Bottom line: Purposes rock!

Onward in kindness and clarity,

Christine Carron, The Critique MD

P.S. Look for news coming soon about The Critique MD’s first live webinar course: A Whole-Brain Approach to Giving and Receiving Critiques.

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2 comments On Critique Groups: Proceed with a Purpose

  • I’m so glad I found your post! I just finished a novel & had a writer friend read it. She gave me an amazing critique full of words I used too much, helpful advice about the beginning etc.( I’m ripping that part all around currently!) My friends read it and said they loved it & couldn’t stop reading it etc. which of course is what I wanted to hear! But needed to hear the truth. I don’t want my first novel to look like a first novel that I self published, so I keep working on it. Nine years of tearing things apart! Argh!
    My question is, How do you know who you are sending your book’s draft to? My story is not that unique but the way I present it is a little different. & my readers seem to like the way I’ve twisted my way of telling it. At the risk of sounding puffed up (or delusional thinking it would be good enough) lol. Who’s to say a writer I’ve asked to critique my work won’t take my idea or the book as their own?
    I can handle a good critique. And I want other writers opinions. But so far I’ve only let a few non writers aside from my writer friend read it. Because I don’t know a safe place to go. Thank you for taking your time to help out a newbie!

    • Christine Carron, The Critique MD

      Congratulations on completing your story and having the courage to share it and get feedback. Awesome!

      To your main question: When I feel a fear come up, I step back and look at it as pragmatically as possible. In the case of a fear around a writer stealing another writer’s work, here is my pragmatic take: It is absolutely possible that another writer could copy/steal/generally abscond with 🙂 someone else’s work, but the probability is likely low. If it were not, we would surely have a different system in place, rather than our current critique group process where multitudes of both aspiring and published writers share their works-in-progress on a regular basis with minimal issues. Hope that perspective helps. This post might also be useful to you–both the main post and the comment thread: https://www.janefriedman.com/idea-theft/. I don’t know Jane personally, just thought it was an informative post related to your question. 🙂

      As to where to find critique groups, definitely check out inkedvoices.com. This is an online critique group platform that I have found to be very useful. It is run by the awesome Brooke McIntyre, and I just found this post by her on Jane Friedman’s site! 🙂 How is that for synchronicity? 🙂 https://www.janefriedman.com/find-the-right-critique-group/ Onward and good luck. Wahooo!

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