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Why Critique Groups are Important to Writers

Nobody writes a perfect first (third or fourth) draft. And as much as we all like to think that what we create is brilliant, we need honest feedback to improve as writers. My critique group, made up of members of Sisters in Crime Central Virginia, is the best investment I've made in my writing career. I appreciate the suggestions and the monthly deadlines keep me on track with my writing.

I learn as much from the conversations about others' work as I do when they review my submissions. It's a great place to brainstorm ideas.

Whenever I think I am done with a set of drafts, I find that I'm not even close. My group finds inconsistencies, weak words, and spots where writing can be tightened.

A critique group can help you refine your work and get your manuscript ready for publication. The support and ideas are invaluable. But it does take some courage to put your work out there for comments and criticism. You also need to be in the mindset to take the criticism and improve your work. Critiques are not personal. If you are too sensitive about having your work reviewed, you are going to have difficulty when your readers start making comments. You're there to listen and learn, not to defend your work against each comment. And in the end, they're all opinions. If you really don't agree with something, don't use it.

Find a group that fits your work style and genre. Some are virtual (online), and others are in person. Mine meets monthly at a local library. We have six to nine authors who attend regularly. It may help if you can visit before you join or submit your work to get an understanding of the rules, conventions, and group dynamics. I am fortunate, my group is made up of thriller or mystery writers. Our backgrounds vary as much as the subgenres do, and everyone brings amazing skills and experiences. The critiques are more valuable to me because the members know the conventions of the genre.

Make sure you know the group's rules. In our group, there has to be at least two submissions for us to have the monthly meeting. We also don't require members to submit something each month.

Members of my group make notes about grammatical and formatting issues and give them to the author. We don't spend the group's discussion time talking about commas. Also, if someone mentions an issue that others noted, he/she jumps in when it is first discussed. We have a group facilitator who keeps us on track and monitors the time.

My group has a good mix of published and prepublished writers. I appreciate all of the encouragement. We help each other with marketing, social media, book launches, and technology. And we celebrate each others' successes.

Best wishes for your writing projects. Keep at it. It's work, and it takes a lot revise and rewrite. But being with a supportive group is worth its weight in gold.

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