NOTE: These tips also work for individual critiques. Check out The Critique Circle at FaithWriters.
How to Get the Most Out of a Critique/Critique Group
By Suzanne Hartmann
1. Realize that your writing isn’t perfect.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. You have spent so much time and poured so much effort into your writing. You have read up on the craft of writing. You have revised and polished your work until it shines. What can your new critique partners possibly find wrong with your writing except minor typos? It’s easier than you think to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s not much wrong with your writing.
The truth is that you submit your writing for critique to find your mistakes, not to receive affirmation that your writing is perfect. Yes, there will be some affirmation and encouragement along the way; we all need that too, but the main reason we participate in a critique group is to find our mistakes and learn how to fix them. Your critique partners will point out the imperfections you are unable to see.
2. Understand that the people in your group want to help you.
Receiving critiques can be hard, especially when you are a new writer and receive critique after critique that points out flaws in your work. It can be tough. But your partners are not trying to make you feel bad or putting you down to be mean. They point out the flaws in your writing for your benefit.
Sometimes it can be as hard on critiquers to point out something they see wrong as it is to receive the information. Sometimes they worry that you will take it wrong or that you will hate them or that it will put you over the edge and make you want to quit. Generally, they will risk being hurt by your reaction because they know the information is for your benefit and that changing your writing to fix the problem will make your work better.
Yes, critiques can hurt, but It is much better for a critique partner to point out your mistakes than a potential agent or editor somewhere down the line…in a rejection letter (if they take the time to explain why they are rejecting your work).