By Tim Pietz, a professional writing student at Taylor University
“Critique group” is an intimidating term. No one likes to feel “critiqued,” and sharing art you’ve poured your heart and soul into with people you don’t know very well (yet) can be a little scary.
I’m not denying any of that. But it’s totally worth it.
For over two years now, I’ve been a member of a critique group, and I’ve learned more through that than through any single writing class I’ve ever taken. Here are seven reasons why critique groups are the bomb.
1. It Builds Friendships Between Writers
The “critique” part of critique group only captures part of its purpose. A good critique group is a team. Its goal is to support every member in their writing. You may not know people at first, but when you work together with fellow artists and share your passions with each other, you become friends. And who doesn’t want new friends?
2. It Hones Your Writing
Yes, you will find out the weaknesses in your writing, in your plotting, and in your characters. You will also find out your strengths, your special talents, the things that others most enjoy about your writing. Either way, you will become a better writer by learning from your audience.
3. It Hones Your Editing
There’s a lot of editing jobs out there, and critique groups are great practice. Critiquing in a group helps you cross-examine your editing opinions and find more nuance. It’s really helped me hone my instincts.
But maybe you don’t want to be an editor and you don’t think editing others’ writings will help you much. Think again! Analyzing other authors’ writings will prepare you to be a better self-editor—which gives you a leg-up as an author.
4. It Thickens Your Skin
If you want to publish your writing, you will face rejection. Everyone writes a dud sometimes. What better way to get used to that than with people who care about you and your writing and will criticize constructively?
5. It Teaches Editors Tact
The opposite is also true. Editing for friends will teach you to critique honestly, but with kindness. Never underestimate the value of that skill.
6. It Keeps You Writing Consistently
You are a writer. Write! Just because you don’t have a class assignment or a freelancing assignment doesn’t mean you should stop writing—and having several people who expect you to have something written every week or two is excellent accountability.
7. It’s Fun!
Seriously. I remember critique groups as the highlight of my week. I get to talk about stories and joke around with fellow writers and improve my craft at the same time! Does it get any better than that?
And there you have it—friendships, editing skills, writing skills, tact, a thick skin, consistency, and fun—the seven reasons why critique groups are the bomb. Stay tuned for my next post, when I give tips about how to start your own critique group!