Fight! Critique group vs. critique group

This past Friday, my Nova Scotia cousin kindly invited me to her long-standing critique group, since she knew I was new to the province and desperately need to get myself up-to-speed with the local writing scene. As we gathered around the living room with glasses of wine and freshly baked bread, it occurred to me that the experience was vastly different from my critique group in London. I can see pros and cons to both sides, which has led me to …

Fight! Critique group vs. critique group MORTAL KOMBAT TO THE DEATH!

Round 1 Challenger: London, Ontario Critique Group

Pros

  • Monday meet-ups from 7-10 — This allowed me the whole weekend to finish up our pieces, as well as gave me something to look forward to on a dreary Monday
  • 2-3 pieces read aloud, then critiqued — This A) meant I didn’t have to spend time reading the pieces before the group, and B) gave us lots of time to explore the piece in depth, providing a more thorough critique

Cons

  • If any one piece was dull, it meant a full hour of dullness
  • If the reader read their piece aloud too quickly, it was hard to follow and I got confused
  • I couldn’t help but make minor grammatical and spelling corrections along the way, making it harder to focus on the big picture elements

Round 2 Challenger: Halifax, Nova Scotia Critique Group

Pros

  • Friday meet-ups from 8-11 — This means I don’t have to worry about having energy the next day, as it’s a Friday! On the other hand, I get tired easily, so 11 is pushing it a little late
  • Send pieces by email beforehand, then discuss at group — This means A) upwards of 5 people can get their work critiqued over the course of the evening, and B) we don’t have to print off 40+ pages if we want a piece critiqued

Cons

  • Without the piece in front of me, I sometimes forgot why I had written down a specific piece of criticism — meaning my critique was less in-depth as a result
  • Some of the submitted pieces were novels, meaning we just read what we can each week — This means, however, that different people are at different points in the story, meaning I can’t follow half the critiques because I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about
  • Sometimes I really need that extra few hours before the meet-up to put the finishing touches on my piece — but then I would submit it so late, no one would have a chance to read!

Time! Winner … undecided?

 

Thoughts on my pros/cons list, and which style of group is better? What’s the best critique group you’ve been in, and how did it run? Inquiring minds want to know!

 

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Fight! Critique group vs. critique group

  1. Poor, Poe. Sounds like it’d be a tough call between those two groups. I’ve only been to one critique group and it didn’t go well. Only fantasy author and the youngest guy there by a few decades. I kind of stopped when a few people thought it best to talk me out of being an author.

    • Gah, that’s the exact opposite of what a critique group is supposed to do! They’re supposed to help your writing in order to ENCOURAGE you to be a better author, not tell you to stop. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  2. Not to start a screed (I’ll save that for my blog): It’s good to have clear rules for all members, such as word count limits. It’s best if pieces are emailed in advance, even though most people read them the day before or day of the meeting. Comments can be emailed after the meeting, with the discussion at the meeting taken into account. Reading your piece aloud can be a gratifying experience or torture, depending on how you feel about reading to a group, but it does eat up a lot of time and should not take the place of group members actually reading the pieces closely in advance. Also, as someone in one of my groups observed, editors and potential buyers of your book don’t routinely read aloud before deciding whether to work with your manuscript or buy the book.
    It’s probably best if a group deals exclusively with either short fiction or novels, but “novel creep” seems to happen to short-story groups. Four or five members is optimal, especially for groups that deal with novels
    If a group isn’t a good fit for you, by all means say goodbye and find (or start) a group of congenial writers. OTOH, a critique group that’s just a mutual admiration society is a waste of time. A group with a good dynamic that delivers useful critiques can be a valuable resource for a writer.

    • All excellent points. Only one of the girls is writing the novel, so I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a problem. Also, I’m sure I’ll want to run my novel by them at some point, so best to leave that option open! There’s about 6 people I think, but I don’t believe everyone attends every meeting, so it should be all right. I agree that reading aloud takes a lot of time — I do like the idea of reading ahead of time and then showing up with commentary. That’s just tough for me because I have terrible time management skills, lol. I like the Halifax group so far, so I’ll probably stick with it and see what happens πŸ™‚ Many of the people provided useful critique, so I think I’ll be well served there.

  3. Oh dear, how this brings back memories! But of course, I like to think my BS was way better than the students, and would make the author take some perverse pleasure πŸ˜‰

    • Lol. In critique groups I’m always torn between “Aw man, their piece is way better than mine,” and “YES! My piece kicks their piece’s butt!”

  4. I am not a fan of the writing group/critique group as a concept, so I shan’t comment. Except that I just did.

    Crap. Now the universe is going to explode.

  5. Gwen Stephens

    Although I’ve never been part of a face-to-face critique group, your London gathering sounds more my speed. I like the get-home-early and the personal feel of reading the work out loud. All of my critique partners are great folks I’ve met in online workshops, which has its own set of pros and cons. I hope you’re feeling settled in your new home – that’s a big move!

    • I too like the get-home-early thing, lol. Maybe that makes me uncool, but I’m cool with that πŸ˜€ I can imagine how online critique partners would have their own pros and cons … I wonder, do you find the critique you get is skewed a bit more negative, since they don’t have to say it face to face so they’re a bit more blunt about what they think?

      • Gwen Stephens

        It’s hard to say, since I don’t really have a basis for comparison. I’d say generally though, it depends on the personality. One of my critique partners, really lets me have it. I hold my breath every time I send him a piece because I know he won’t hold back, but he manages to deliver the critique in a polite and encouraging tone. It takes me days to “recover” from his critiques, because he never fails to point out problems. It feels negative at the time, but when I go back later, I typically have to agree he’s right!

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