Writing groups versus critique groups, and why you should have both
Wow, that’s a long title, but it’s a true one. I belong to both a serious writing group (where we read each other’s pieces and comment) and a creatives group (where we all just work on our own stuff and BS). I actually cherish both of them, for different reasons.
The critique group has really, really helped me to craft my writing. We have several published authors, and we’re all voracious readers. These guys keep me honest – I have issues with talking heads in my rough drafts, among other things, and they’ve helped talk me down from the ledge when I was ready to chuck the entire writing thing. We’ve been together for over 10 years now, and although we’ve had members come and go, the core group has remained the same. This group is valuable, because our goal is to make the story the best it is. We’ve actually lost members because we won’t sugar-coat things. This is why this group is good, because sugar-coating things doesn’t help the writer. We’re pretty honest – if it doesn’t work for us, we’ll tell you why, and it will be more than “I don’t like it.” It’s okay if you don’t like things – there are plenty of people out there who do like it. But if it’s unclear who’s talking, or your grammar is atrocious, well, you need to know that. A good critique group will point out the bad and the good, and help you make the story the best it can be. Our critique group meets once a month, for several hours, and we generally get through 2-4 pieces (depending on who brings what).
On the other hand, our creatives group meets once a week (mostly) at the studio or at Gibson’s, and we do all sorts of things. I’m writing this blog post during our Creatives meeting, and looking around the table, I see the following: two people stitching, one person working on audio editing, one person working on design work for a book, and two people talking about events for the SCA. There are times when we have people coloring, or reading, or coding. It’s a time dedicated to creating things. It’s valuable because it’s time to do anything, as long as it’s creative. This is a recharging of the well that I can only normally find at cons. There’s something about being with other people who are doing something they are passionate about that really gets me going.
And that’s why you need both. If you can find both, you’re in a very good space.
Are you part of a group? Tell us about it in the comments!