I have been in several critique groups: some large, some small; some that meet weekly, some once a month, and some twice a month; as well as an online critique group. Why have I been a part of so many critique groups? Because I believe having a critique group is important because it helps you improve your writing and your story–to write the best story you can write even before an editor gets to work on it. It helps make the editor’s job easier, and helps me not have to pay as high of an editing fee as if I didn’t put all of this work into it first.
After participating in all of the groups above, I have finally settled into one group that I believe is the perfect fit for me. I have read other writers’ opinions about critique groups and have found that most of them say that two or three critique partners is the best size. That is what I have found. The critique group I am a part of meets twice a month and is just two other ladies and myself, although a gentleman does join us over the summer months.
I have found that this group is the perfect fit for me and works best for the following reasons: 1) too many voices giving feedback can set my head to spinning, but two or three voices make sense and are easier to sort through; 2) meeting with the same people and having them critique my work from start to finish allows them to become very familiar with my work, my writing — both my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my goals — what my story is really about–what I’m trying to say.
Because of those reasons my writing continues to improve because of their comments, suggestions, and encouragement. Just a few weeks ago, one of them said to me, I don’t like where you’re going with this. There are too many new characters, and you’ve gone astray from the main goal of your story. (Or something very similar to that.) I left critique group that day feeling a bit frustrated. I’ve been working on this manuscript for over two years already–I want to finish it and move on to the next story! I don’t want to spend years on every book I write. (But, at the same time, I want every book that I write to be the very best it can be.)
However, because I value the opinions of these critique partners and have built a good, trusting relationship with them, I had to contemplate what she said, and I did. I took a week or two to mull it over and came to realize she was right. As a historical romance writer who loves history, I was trying to include too much history, and if I continued on the current path, my book was going to be too long. She was also right that I had lost the main goal of my story.
Once I came to that realization, I had to go back to find where I had veered from the proper path–eight chapters ago! Ugh! Well, I printed everything from chapter 17 (where I was last on track) through chapter 25, and I started writing from the end of chapter 17 again with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. I am still going through the other eight chapters to see if there is anything I can salvage and keep in the story, which my critique partners also assured me that I can, and they pointed out what they liked that still kept to my story goal and made it interesting.
Now, in just a few short weeks, I am writing my new 21st chapter and I love the direction the story is now going–much closer to my intended goal, and my critique partners have assured me that they are loving the new chapters and that my writing is better, stronger, and helps them to relate to the characters so much more.
So, if you’re a fiction writer, and you don’t have a couple of critique partners that you trust and meet with regularly, I greatly encourage you to find some. It will do your writing and your confidence in your writing a world of good!