It’s my time at writing group next week and the story I’m revising isn’t anywhere near ready for its turn at the table. Guess how I’m going to spend my weekend.
I joined a writing group again last winter after not participating in one as a writer/reader for quite a while. I’d been leading read and critique groups for several years, but when three of the six writers in my current group finished their novels at the same time, and another wanted to take a hiatus, the group was left with only two actively writing members. But instead of keeping the group going by recruiting new members, I wanted to be in a writing group myself. It had been too long and I knew I needed help in revising my novel.
As you probably know, I love writing groups of all kinds, and read and critique writing groups have served me well over the years. I’ve been a member of several, both leader-run and peer-run, and I believe a R&C group, or at least a few really good readers, are a necessary and vital part of the sometimes long process of going from idea and, draft-by-draft, to finished project.
In my book, Writing Alone, Writing Together, I created a checklist for “Why Read and Critique.” Here’s what it says:
Because you can never hear your work for the first time
Because you can never be totally objective
Because you lose perspective after a while
Because you can never know how your work will affect readers
Because reading your work to an audience changes it for you
Because different listeners/readers have different reactions to the same words
Because you can learn from other writers’ reactions as well as their comments
Because it can bring up questions you didn’t know to ask
Because it can help you pinpoint problems you sense, but cannot identify
Because your intuition will be confirmed and you’ll learn to trust yourself more
Because it can help you to separate yourself from your work
Because it helps you develop your own critical sense
What I would add now is:
Because reading and critiquing someone else’s work helps you identify problems in your own writing.
Because being part of a group is a way of supporting other writers.
OK. Back to the desk for me. What about you. Are you in a writing group? How has read and critique served your writing?