You’re about to submit your writing to a critique group for the first time. You haven’t felt this nervous since your first job interview. Or the time you proposed to your spouse. Or the time Old Aunt Mary visited and the dog was using the sweater she knitted you as his sleeping spot.
Will they rip your writing—and you—to shreds with pieces of your manuscript and your soul shredded across the floor? Will they proclaim you the next Hemingway or Tolkien? Will they pat you on the head and say, “Bless you’re darling heart? Many people don’t even try to write.”
What Should You Expect?
First, I encourage you to consider joining a critique group. The group is a place to join the community of writers—those like ourselves who pursue this dream, this call to write. The group can be a place of improving our craft. And, from my own personal experience, the group can be a place where, over time, we develop friendships that transcend the writing, where we find a place of support and encouragement and prayer for all of what life throws at us.
My first piece of advice is don’t plan on submitting any of your writing at the first meeting you attend. Observe one or two, or even three, meetings to get a feel for the group. Each group has its own unique personality. You want to assess how well your personality meshes with the group.
Are You Comfortable With the Style of the Group?
Some have strict rules of conduct for how the submission is formatted, how many copies to bring, how much time per person. Some don’t allow the author to speak while his work is being discussed. I actually like this one. When my book is out, I can’t sit and explain to the reader what I meant when I wrote a particular sentence. The critique is a time for me to listen and to learn, not to defend.
Some groups have few, if any, rules and the discussion ranges far and wide. Some have guidelines—“rules” sounds too harsh and controlling. And some groups are more therapy groups than critique groups.
Only you can know what kind of group will work best for you. Take the time to investigate. Remember, you are about to invest a good bit of your time and a lot of your heart with a group of people who many consider weird because we write.
What holds you back from joining a critique group? If you’re in a group now, what motivated you to take the plunge?
Henry McLaughlin is a co-founder of The Intentional Novelist, as well as Associate Director of the North Texas Christian Writers. His first novel, “Journey to Riverbend,” was the winner of the Operation First Novel Contest. His latest novel, “Riverbend Justice,” is now available.
Read more at henrymclaughlin.net or follow him on Twitter.