TERRY ANN MARSH
From Premise to Published: Critiques
A critique group can be a very useful tool on your way to publication. Basically, it is a group of 4-6 people (usually) who gather regularly to read and comment on each other’s work. Most meet once a month, giving time between meetings to amend manuscripts.
There are as many different types of critique groups as there are genres of writing styles. Some will meet locally, some online. Some you may only be involved with for a short time, others you can be part of for years. The best thing is to do some research to find which will best suit you. I have been in two critique groups that were very good, and I learned a lot.
The first group I was in would meet at a restaurant the third Monday of every month. Prior to the meeting, we would submit our material online. It would be a chapter or two, or in the case of a picture book, the entire manuscript. When we gathered, we would already know whose turn it was going to be that month. They would read a portion of their work then we would go around the table with our comments. At the end, we would hand them our downloaded hard copy of their submission with our comments added in. This was my first experience with a critique group and I was very fortunate. Of the three other women in the group, one was a librarian, one taught middle-school English, and one taught English at a local college. They were all very kind and supportive of me and my early attempts at writing.
I am currently involved in an online mentoring critique group. This is a little more advanced. It is led by an author/editor and everyone in the group, there are five of us, have had some success in publication. There is a definitive format that we follow - it will only go for 6 months and it does cost money. Normally, I would say it is not necessary to spend money on critique groups. I made this decision because I have several books that I feel are very close to being published, but I need to fine tune them and I am not involved in a local group at this time.
It's amazing what having extra eyes on your work can yield. You can’t love your own words so much that you can’t see the value of criticism. The book I submitted to this mentoring group is so much better then when we started. I truly appreciated their comments and I took them to heart. I made MAJOR changes in my manuscript, but I now have a manuscript I am confident in and ready to submit. I don’t think I would have gotten to this point without their help.
The general rule of thumb for a critique group is to point out the strengths of the manuscript first before pointing out what we feel needs improvement. And even when criticizing, it should be done in the kindest way possible. We are not there to humiliate or offend anyone.
When I think of a critique group, I am reminded of the Mary Poppins song, “Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down!” Go ahead…sing it! You know you want to!