Critique Group Meetings are Like AA For Writers

March 15, 2010

Hi. My name is Annie, and I’m a writing addict.

Okay, maybe that was a little extreme, but I bet there are a few of you out there nodding your heads and relating with me on that one.

When I started writing a few years ago, I seriously had no clue whatsoever what the hell I was doing. I mean, I didn’t even know the basics. (Dialogue tags??? What the heck are those things?) You may laugh, but it was really that bad. Granted, my college degree wasn’t in English or anything (nursing doesn’t exactly require a whole lot of complete sentences), but writing a novel is an art all its own, something that couldn’t be taught in English 101. The only thing I knew was I had this burning story in my brain I had to get out somehow. So being the novice that I was, I opened my spiral notebook and started from page one and winged it, writing the entire manuscript by hand. I know, I know, that was crazy and a completely separate story we won’t get into.

So anyway, I had this two hundred plus page handwritten story, and no clue on what to do next. I knew I completely sucked at grammar (one of the many high school classes I loved to ditch) and was at least smart enough to go out and look for some help.

Where did she start? I know you might be asking yourself this. Well that answer is simple. I went online, and simply Googled writing websites. No lie. That was what I did. And actually I landed on a few cool sites like: Gia, Absolute Write, and a few awesome blogs. All of which made me realize I needed some major help.

After a little bit of research on those sites, the second thing I did to help better my craft was join an actual critique group. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like, I mean I knew my stuff was rough, especially compared against the published people in the groups pieces, but because I have no shame, I submitted my work anyway. As you probably guessed, it came back with tons of red marks, which was awesome because they showed me what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. Once I started to see I was improving, group became the one thing I was always looking forward to spend a Saturday doing. I wanted to show them I was learning so much from everything they taught me, and it was kind of becoming my biweekly writing therapy session.

My point in all this is simple: you really have to have some tough skin and be open to criticism. People who are taking the time to read your rough drafts and showing you how to make them better are doing it because they care, not because they are out to get you. They want to help you. They want to see you succeed. So when you are ready to submit your baby for a thorough read through, be happy when you see the comments. They are truly meant to help, and once you adapt to constructive criticism, be careful. It can become addictive.

Happy Writing.




  1. I totally agree–crit group and/or beta feedback is crucial to improve as a writer, to see what’s working and what isn’t. You definitely have to open yourself up for honest feedback, though. If you’re just looking for an “OMG, thatwasfullofawesome” on every little bit, you’ll probably be in for quite a shock. 🙂

  2. I wish you guys lived closer so I could have a “in your face” crit group, but what you guys have given to me is invaluable. I wouldn’t be where I am without you guys and neither would my manuscripts. That’s why I love FNW and MDW too b/c like Deb said, sometimes you need the extra little boost to make it through, or maybe someone sees something that you were oblivious to!

    Nice post!

  3. Awesome post, Annie. I enjoy watching our writing grow. It’s fun to grow together, right? Crits are so important and writers have to have thick skin cause we can always learn something and our manuscripts can only get better.

  4. i’m totally with you. great post, great reminder.

    thanks for sharing this.

  5. I really appreciate your post on critique groups. I know I need one. I have all of the same problems you mentioned having as a novice writer (except grammar — I’m a total grammar geek).

    Question is, how do I find a critique group? No one I know here has ever even thought of writing a book, let alone one in my genre (YA fantasy). Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Thanks and keep posting great advice!

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