Last week we talked about how to find a writing group. Now it’s time to look at how to make the most of that writing group and some issues to watch out for.
When You’re Critiquing
Be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Describe how you’re feeling in different scenes. Point out problems where you see them, but don’t try to solve them. Only the author knows where the story is going.
Try to view things in the context of the book, from the target audience’s point of view. Try to see where the writer is coming from. If they write young adult and you write adult, don’t tell them that their book isn’t long enough and that their voice is juvenile. Try to read the book like you were its target audience, keeping in mind that not every story is for every reader. Even if you hate it, it might still be good stuff.
Don’t forget to say good things as well as bad. If someone just told you everything they hated about your book, you’d feel like a rotten writer. And it’s important to know what’s working as well as what’s not.
When You’re Being Critiqued
If you’re in a group that meets in person, don’t interrupt anyone critiquing you. Don’t try to defend yourself, don’t try to explain. If they don’t understand things the way you thought they would, take that as an opportunity to try again. If you explain what you meant, you ruin the chance to see if you could write things in a different way that they would understand.
Be sure to write down everything. Even if you think they’re wrong, write it down. Look over things later and decide what advice you agree with.
What to Watch Out For
Writing groups are bad at judging pacing. Most likely, you’re in a writing group that will read your novel chunks at a time. They won’t be able to help you much where pacing is concerned, though they might try. Don’t put too much weight on their opinions.
Know that in writers groups it’s common for the members to pick up on a certain aspect of your writing and harp on it. Someone will comment that your prose is too flowery one week, and then another person will see that and comment on it the next week. The problem can seem bigger than it really is.
Some people will get caught up in the vision of your story and try to tell you where it should go. Listen to their ideas and write them down. Heck, they might even be good, but don’t incorporate anything into your story unless you’ve thought long and hard on it. If you added in every suggestion, you’d end up with a draft that went all over the place! So, smile and nod and write down everyone’s ideas, but then maybe ignore them.
Anyone else had problems like these in their critique group? How did you get around them?