- Because they'll catch problems with your manuscript you didn't know you had--anything from spelling to inconsistent characters. This sounds harsh but often it's just helpful feedback. If you really feel that the group is WRONG, then you just set aside your manuscript for a day or two and go back and see if you might understand what they're saying. That happens to me. Once, they said that one of my scripts seemed melodramatic for my usual fare. What did they know, right? Then the next day I looked at it again and tossed it. They were right. I started all over and got the kind of script I wanted. It worked!
- Because there's encouragement in numbers. Our group has gone to writer conferences together. At one of our meetings, we discussed a particularly discouraging conference, the kind that makes you consider quitting writing and becoming a farmer instead. But we found solutions to our discouragement and we're still meeting. (One of us is a farmer but he was that before being a writer.)
- Because having your manuscript read aloud by someone else, helps you hear the problem sentences (or paragraphs or page).
WHERE: Library, your home, cafe. Pick one.
HOW: The point is to give helpful feedback. Did something not quite work? say so but don't rewrite for them. Did you like the main character's sauciness? Say that as well. It's important to let your group know what was "right" about their manuscript as well. (I add that because as a director of plays I once made the mistake of not complimenting my piano player. She thought I hated what she was doing! I just hadn't said anything because she was doing a great job, but my lack of expressing that caused her to think I was disappointed in her performance. Well, that learning moment carried over into my manuscript critiquing. Now I make sure I talk about the cool stuff my critique group friends--and my actors--do so they know to leave the great parts in.)
Do you have other questions about critique groups? or do you have more great tips? Please share!