Are Writers’ Critique Groups Worth It?

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I think most of us have been in these at one time or another. Some operate as cozy little critique/review groups for amateur writers; others are formal mini “conferences.” All are designed to help guide and inspire their members to write like an Alcoholics Anonymous support group.

Yet, are they helpful? And if so, in what way are they helpful?

I suppose the first answer would be to network with local writers, a way for kindred spirits to reach beyond the clacking of keyboards and muses and demanding characters. I have enough experience with them to have seen a wide range of writers in various stages of their profession. All are generally excited, enthusiastic, and willing to share their works-in-progress. Many of them were “fly-by-nights,” looking to unload their bright new story in order to show off and get attention and became belligerent when people criticized it.

The problem I have found with most critique groups was the level of amateurism, that is, there was rarely anyone in the group that was above my own level, as amateur as that was. I mean, the members were more than happy to read and critique my unpublished works, but they had very little experience at being literary agents, acquiring editors, or even published authors. Their opinions were highly unqualified, based upon what they felt rather than what they knew. I suppose it was fun meeting with them once a month (sans holidays) in an excuse to get out of the house and feeling more productive than meeting with gamers to play Dungeons and Dragons. Yet, I found that my need to have people “critique” my works hovered on the hope that they would all feel that I was *the* shit. That I was a genius, you know.

So, after years of haunting these venues, I began thinking that other than finding mutual support, not one specifically or directly exalted any of my works to publication. Other than the polite “Oh, I think that paragraph read kind of slowly” – I never achieved any breakthroughs. I got fat a couple of times attending them because the older women of the group enjoyed cooking and bringing their comfort food.

  • A good and well-rounded writers group should include:
  • At least one professional and traditionally-published author (as leader or, at least, a voice of reason).
  • An established and well-sold self-publisher (for alternate perspectives).
  • A professional proofreader or editor, and I mean one who makes money at it.
  • Alternative vegetable and low-fat goodies so the membership doesn’t just get fat. In addition, a critique group should

    • Remain within a cozy 10-30 count membership for a more personal involvement.
    • Not become one of those local writers groups that suddenly begin charging monthly and/or annual dues (unless, of course, they have a good reason for charging (scheduling travel, conferences, speakers, daytrips, etc.).
    • Not become cliquish.
    • Offer workshops.

    Other than that, writing is a lonely business. Many of your teachers are within the written word, that is, novels, textbooks, literary journals, etc. Getting one amateur to advise another amateur doesn’t pave the way to success. So, before you become affiliated with a local writers’ group, make certain their agenda corresponds with your own mission statement.

    In other words, Make sure you know what it is you wish this group to deliver, and determine that they are capable of delivering.

    I’ll tell you one thing: I rarely saw bestselling and/or established authors as part of the regular membership. There might be a reason for that.

     

    M Cid D’Angelo’s novels can be found at ~

    Dead Reckoning: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Reckoning-ebook/dp/B00BJ8AW9Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361986545&sr=1-1&keywords=m+cid+d%27angelo

    Electric Monkeyland: http://www.amazon.com/Electric-Monkeyland-ebook/dp/B00BKNMKN6/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361986545&sr=1-3&keywords=m+cid+d%27angelo

    A few of his short stories are published by various for print and online literary magazines. Here are a few:

    “Thumbs Up” (Midway Journal): http://www.midwayjournal.com/Oct10_Fiction-ThumbsUp.html

    “Don Quixote de Las Vegas” (Moronic Ox): http://www.moronicox.com/don-quixote-de-las-vegas-dangelo.html

    “In the Garden” (decomP magazinE): http://www.decompmagazine.com/inthegarden.htm

    “Chad and Willie Break a Leg (March, 2013 – The Legendary): http://www.downdirtyword.com/

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About mciddangelo

"I write because I believe in literature; I believe that the art of words is louder than sound, more colorful than paintings. My novels are written not because of the pursuit of money or even success, but in the FAITH that they exalt our experiences; that not only do they give us enjoyment to read them, but they are meant to open worlds that a reader may not ever imagine." M Cid D'Angelo is published in Aiofe's Kiss, Calliope, Eureka Literary Magazine, Third Wednesday, Midway Journal, and many others. He is the author of Dead Reckoning (J Ellington Ashton Press, 2015), available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
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One Response to Are Writers’ Critique Groups Worth It?

  1. skdelph says:

    I know what you’re saying about finding a stacked writers group. I have always had the sneaking suspicion those already successful might not be too interested in coaching the competition. You have a strong point about writers groups giving non productive critiques. I’ve also noticed self teaching seems to be the new trend in all things once reserved for higher education as Google and youtube have forever changed the way we research. We look for guidance while we rush to inependent publishing. What can we say? If a writing group was put together to benefit writers it would most certainly have to include the solid professionals on your list. Are there writers groups so well organized? Where does one look to find them (besides online)?

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