So what’s a healthy writing group?
- Members listen to or read carefully the work being critiqued.
- They mark picky-picky technical stuff like punctuation, obvious misspellings, mistaken capitalization, and grammar mistakes, but don’t take up critique time with them unless those cause confusion of style or meaning.
- Although each writer has a style, a comfort level when it comes to writing violence or physical intimacy, and a personal sense of humor, no member of a healthy writing group attempts to impose those on the writing of other members.
- In a healthy writing group, members approach giving a critique as a way to help the
victimrecipient of the critique make the piece better as the writer being critiqued would define “better.”
Another invaluable tool for the writer is the ability to accept and use a critique.
- I’ve seen too many writers argue with comments, questions, and suggestions. What good does that do? By all means, explain your intention if it was misunderstood, but think about this: your intention was misunderstood. You aren’t going to be at every reader’s side to explain yourself, so you’d better improve that bit while you still have the chance.
- I’ve also seen writers who changed everything everybody ever suggested they change — I’ve been that writer, myself, at times.
- What I’ve learned about feedback is this: Don’t listen only to other people. Don’t listen only to yourself. Listen to the story. Sometimes the voices outside of your head know what the story needs; sometimes the voices inside your head know what the story needs. But the story always knows.
- Red ink and reservations from your writing group are gifts you should accept with grace and gratitude. They’re a sign of respect, for your work and for your professionalism.
I’m patting myself on the back a bit with this post, because I took a story in to the Southern Indiana Writers and brought the reading copies back thick with red ink and I’ve been dancing ever since. I’m so happy my group thinks enough of my work to want to collaborate on making it better. I’m so proud that they trust me to appreciate the hard work they did in entering into my imagination and helping me shape it. I’m so lucky to belong to a group for whom “good enough” is never good enough.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character is given a critique on self or some work and responds to the critique. Who gives it? Why? With what motive? How does the character respond directly or as a result?