Why I Go to Critique Group

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Posted by Kathy Waller

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I said to my critique group last week, The whole draft is stinky, it stinks, there’s no hope.

They read chapter 13 and said, But it’s so good, so funny, Molly is so funny, it’s not stinky.

I said, Yes, the first part of chapter 13 and the last part of chapter 13 are funny and very very good, but there’s still no middle of chapter 13 and what there is stinks, and anyway the other 47,000 words stink except for a few hundred here and there.

And they said, But the middle could be revised, edited, it has promise.

I said, But it won’t work because I have written myself into a hole and can’t get out, so I have to trash that part, and anyway the whole concept stinks.

And they said, NOOOOOOOO you can fix it,  just keep going, because we like Molly, she’s so funny.

And that is why I go to critique group every blessed week.

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I was looking over old blog posts, trying to determine who I was back then, when I came across this piece from a September 2009 Whiskertips. Over the past six years, much has changed, but two things have not:

1. The draft is still stinky; and

2. I still go to critique group.

Note: The photographs were taken on special occasions. We don’t have nearly that much fun every week.

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers. Two of her short stories appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ anthology of crime fiction, MURDER ON WHEELS.

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23 Responses to Why I Go to Critique Group

  1. Joe Stephens says:

    When I read about critique groups I get sad because I live in a small town with one writing group that is dedicated solely to poetry. I would love to be in a group like that.

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  2. Doris says:

    Kathy, I totally understand. Although not part of a critique group, I am part f a writing group and I have withdrawals when I can’t make it. One gentleman, years ago, joined RWA just to be with writers. He wrote suspense, but still the energy of the group of people who write is priceless. Keep going, Molly’s story will win out. (Smile) Doris

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      Withdrawal is the right word, Doris. The energy of the group does make a difference, and the friendships that are formed. Molly and I haven’t spoken for a couple of years. She insists I can’t kill a particular character I’d planned to kill, and she wants the murder to happen after the first three chapters/50 pages. I’m ready to try again, but I know she’s not going to change her mind. Stubborn. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Wranglers says:

    You are lucky, and you have some great people in your gruop. Kaye was a critique partner online with me for a few years. I am not connected with any local groups in WV or FL., but I went to a great group in Parkersburg, WV for a couple of times, That was fun, but with my schedule it’s almost impossible. I did ask on Facebook if there are any authors who live close to Sun City Center, FL, and one WV author winters here. That will be fun to see her. Cher’ley

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      I’m very lucky. Kaye tried to escape, but we named her our Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita and hung on to her email address. Enjoy your visit with your Facebook friend. I used to sneer at the way FB uses the word “friend,” but friend is what many of them turn out to be.

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  4. Neva Bodin says:

    Great blog. Says the value of a critique group better than any list of facts. Usually writers are inhabiting every little bergh so for those who don’t have a group, I would somehow inject into most every conversation that you are a writer and I bet you get responses of people who are writing and potentially would like a group Joe. Worth a try anyway. That looks like a great group of ladies Kathy!!

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      It is a great group, both as writers and as friends. We also function as a therapy group, which writers tend to need sometimes. Thanks for the comment, Neva.

      Joe, I second Neva’s suggestion–let people know what you do.

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  5. I’ve always found critique groups valuable.

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  6. sstamm625 says:

    Great post, Kathy! Short and to the point. Love it!

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      Thanks, Stephanie. I love the times I say what I mean without meandering all over the place first (generally because I don’t know what I’m trying to say). Those posts so rarely happen. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. wyoauthor1 says:

    Kathy, the pictures are wonderful! Socializing and writing, laughing and encouraging, such a great mix! I’m hosting my writers group at my cabin in August, and one of the ladies and I are planning a “book tour” together to Montana in September. I’m thankful for my writers group, which includes the lovely Neva Bodin!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy Waller says:

      My group loves retreating, especially to cabins. And a book tour sounds heavenly. We haven’t reached the book tour stage, but it sounds like something we should aspire to, especially if the destination is Montana. (Or somewhere that isn’t here. At least two of us are happy just to get out of town.) 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Wranglers says:

    Kathy,
    I’ve belonged to this particular critique group for 4 years. The other members are Travis Richardson and Sarah Chen. I have found the group invaluable. I get what I feel is honest feedback. I don’t always walk away agreeing with them but usually after a day or two I’ll see their point. One of the biggest benefits for me is the pressure to get my writing done. We try to meet every week. Mentally it’s the homework mode setting in – “Uh-oh I have to bring something!” It’s that extra push to make sure I do the work for that week.We usually spend the first 1/2 hour talking about the book world. It’s a nice way to commune with other writers. I’m all for writers groups when they work well. I’ve been in other writing groups that have not worked for me. I quit one when their was a 1/2 hour argument about punctuation.
    Thanks for the blog post.
    – Stephen

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Mike Staton says:

    I enjoy the Henderson Writers Group, and not just for the critiquing meetings. They also have other types of meetings — writing prompts on the third Wednesday of the month, book reviews on the second Wednesday, and sometimes a special speaker on Mondays. But I’ve been AWOL lately. I’ve been using an online writers’ workshop for my critique needs on my WiP’s chapters.

    Like

    • Kathy Waller says:

      The Henderson Writers Group sounds wonderful. I love to write from prompts in a group. I’ve never belonged to an online critique group. I imagine they have a better focus on critique. Periodically someone has to remind us of the rules–no discussion, no arguing, no justifying or explaining while your piece is being critiqued. Someday we may as a group reach perfection, but we have a way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Travis says:

    What Stephen said up above. Having insightful and constructive feedback is invaluable.

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  11. I too have had good and bad experiences with critique groups. But the one I’m in with Travis and Stephen is by far, the best thing that’s happened to my writing. We may all write in the same genre (mystery/crime fiction) which does help, but beyond that, we couldn’t be more different. But we appreciate and recognize our different styles and tones and that’s what matters. My writing has definitely improved since we joined up several years ago. It also helps establish that deadline I so desperately need. I have to have pages before I go to writer group…so I better get to it!

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  12. S. J. Brown says:

    Groups are a great resource. They push you to keep going, to tweek things a bit and help your work shine.

    Like

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