Thursday, December 3

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, December 03, 2009 11 comments
Meeting for writer's group is always a highlight of the month. We're an exceptionally diverse group genre-wise: literary fiction, fantasy, magical realism, young adult, memoir and nonfiction features. The main connecting thread is we've had relationships in some church setting, so there's an underlying faith tradition we share, even if it doesn't come out explicitly in each person's work. Many writers would consider this diversity to be a less-than-ideal situation. They want to stay in their own genre ghetto, so to speak, where everyone knows all the rules. But sometimes sticking to the genre rules too strictly will keep your from taking risks that could make your story something truly breakthrough.

As we critiqued four very different pieces last night, one of the guys piped up,"You know, I think I learn as much or even more hearing you all critique someone else's piece as I do getting my own stuff critiqued. I realize I've been making the same mistake, or I see new ways to handle a problem or good deeper in my own work."

Amen to that, Bryan (whose Harvey Award win we toasted with great huzzahs). Being generous with your time in offering critiques will pay back dividends beyond getting a few more sets of eyes on your work. Interacting with other writers, struggling with them and building them up will shape you as a craftsperson in the rag-tag guild of writers.

What are some of the unexpected rewards you've discovered in your critique groups?


  1. One unexpected reward is that people bring alcohol to your house when you host the group meeting. Or is that an expected reward? Hmm...

    I had a great time last night. Thanks as always for your thoughts and critiques!

  2. It was so fun, tho I am running on fumes today. My usual bedtime is like 10:15. LOL. I really liked the shiraz blend your served last night--tasty and didn't make me sleepy at all, which is rare.

    I hope my whole page of questions for backstorying Jane weren't overkill. I can get a little carried away with ideas and possibilities.... Your story/novella has great bones and so much potential--can't wait to see it continue to progress!

  3. I have two critique partners, but we don't meet in real life. I can imagine the group interaction can really help. Bouncing off others' ideas, the camaraderie, and the opportunity to learn from writers who write something entirely different than you. And there's the alcohol, of course ;) Geez, it's like a party where everybody loves to write...I feel inspired to join a writing group. Thanks for the great post!

  4. Before I moved I was part of a critique group that had a lot of variety. I Loved it! And I absolutely found it to be valuable. I really believe my writing improved after everytime I went because of the discussions we had.

  5. Hi laurel! Thanks for the visit and follow. :)

    What a great post on crits. They are invaluable. And I DO get as much from hearing other critiques on others work as I get from crits on my own stuff.

    Giving back to help other writers helps us just as much. Great stuff. :)

  6. I'm not in one so no discoveries here, but I did enjoy you piece about the Wedding Singer the other day just forgot to stop by after. Great writing!

  7. Carol: the in-person dynamic is truly special, and something I lived without for a long time. Simon heard me whining about it and said we had to take the bull by the horns (typical Simon!). We put our heads together and realized we knew quite a few people from various settings who liked to scribble. Another group I attend sporadically had members trolling local writing workshops and personally inviting people who also wrote for kids and teens. So that's another way to go about finding people to crit with.

    It takes some creativity and effort to make a group happen, but you can do it!

    Candice: I hope you can find a group in your new locale. Do you still keep in touch with your former group?

    Robyn: You're welcome. I saw your comment at literary lab and decided to visit. It's great fun making new writer friends online.

  8. T. Anne: Glad you enjoyed the Wedding Singer piece.

    If you're able to get involved in a group, I highly recommend it. With my crit group's help, my revision process has become much more focused and productive.

  9. I guess my favorite benefit is the warm collegiality that results form sharing so much of ourselves with each other. Sharing personal writing is such an intimate thing, bonding people closer together than I imagined it would.

  10. Hi Laurel. Totally off-topic, but I just got your message. I'd love to do a guest blog with you. Just let me know what you want me to do.

  11. Hi Scathing. Kewl! I'll send you some questions through the blogger "send a message" interface.