Wednesday Writing Hints – It is TOTALLY okay if you hate critique groups. Seriously. To Heck With Them!

Writing is lonely. I get it. And some writers are actually – gasp! – extroverts who want feedback in a group setting with other writers where they can drink coffee or brews or have snacks and dip and discuss how to make their writing better.

That is lovely.

That is not everyone.

And it is okay if it is not you.

I was talking to one of my favorite writers that I’ve mentored last week. And she said, “You don’t have a reader, do you?”

And I was like, “No. I trust no humans.”

She laughed.

This is only partially true. I trust my agent of awesome. I trust my editors. But I’ve had some wicked bad times with critique groups. Here’s why:

Ways Critique Groups Can Go Wrong

Group Think

Sometimes your group will have an alpha writer. She is the goddess of the group and once she says something? All the other writers will grovel and try to get her to love and mimic everything she says.

If she says, “It needs more emotional resonance during this paragraph where you are describing the city.”

Then, they will say, “Yeah. I’m not feeling this paragraph.”

And they will also say, “Whoa. Yeah. This paragraph has no heart.”

And these will be the same people who told you before group how much they loved the exact same paragraph. I have seen this happen over and over again. I’m not a fan of it.

Not All Readers are the Same or Want the Same Thing.

Not all readers like the same thing. So, I’m not a fan of Fifty Shades of Gray. If I were in that author’s writing group, I’d have TOTALLY screwed up her book if she listened to me.

And that would have impacted our economy and a lot of people’s sex lives.

A lot of critique groups have different genres represented, which is awesome, but a lot of times they skew to the literary genre of adult contemporary. I once witnessed a woman with one literary fiction novel absolutely skewer and make cry another woman who had published multiple romance novels that were bestsellers.

We all have different tastes.

I lost my chill and left that group, which leads me to this…

Sometimes We Have No Chill

While writing is communication between the writer and the reader and therefore relies on others, it is also an art. And when you create something, something that you feel strongly about and work really hard over it? Well, sometimes when people criticize it, even constructively, it hurts your soul and if you have no chill? Yeah. Critique groups can suck.

It’s not good to have an assault charge on your record if you write picture books, just saying.

Critique Groups Often Only Get Small Chunks of Big Stories at a Time

So, unlike beta readers, they can’t really focus on the structure and pace of the story. That makes it really hard to figure out what might be structurally wrong with the story or its pacing or its emotional through lines.

Plus, it’s also really frustrating when the story is super good and you want to know what happens next.

Sometimes the People in Your Writing Group Aren’t the Best Writers Themselves

So, unlike the alpha-mentor situation, sometimes a writing group will be made up of a bunch of really crappy writers all trying to help each other, but not really knowing how to, but still being super confident about giving writing advice.

This usually doesn’t end well.

Unexpected Nudity

I have been in two different critique groups where someone’s husband has wandered into the room totally naked. And it was just… If you aren’t expecting a naked man in the room when you’re talking about plots and subplots and believable dialogue…? Well, it makes it a little weird. Not in a good way.

What is my point?

My point is that critique groups can sometimes suck and hurt you, and hurt your story. So, if you’re in one and it starts feeling toxic? It’s okay to leave. Writing well is about learning how to hear your voice, the voice of the story, and then crafting that in such a way that others get it too. Yes! Sometimes critique groups can help with that and that is awesome. But don’t be afraid or be hard on yourself if it doesn’t work for you.

You are still awesome.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s almost out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.


People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEED is on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

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Writers! We are thrilled to announce that The Writing Barn’s 2019 Write. Submit. Support. faculty will be Picture Book writer & illustrator Jessixa Bagley and YA author Carrie Jones. 

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

Learn more below about this year’s faculty…

Apply Now!

WSS Picture Book Faculty

Jessixa Bagley’s artistic career has been a mix of comics, fine art, and illustration. She’s worked with publications such as: The Chicago Reader, The Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, Nickelodeon Magazine, and Highlights.

Her debut picture book, Boats for Papa (June 2015) has earned many accolades and awards including a Fall 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection, the SCBWI 2016 Golden Kite Award for Best Picture Book Text as well a the 2016 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award. Her picture book, Laundry Day, was not only a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2016 but it also received a 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award for Writing. Her most recent picture book, Vincent Comes Home,  is a collaboration with her husband, Aaron Bagley. All of her picture books are with Neal Porter for Roaring Brook Press.

Currently, she lives in Seattle, Washington in a castle in the sky with her wonderful husband, painfully adorable son, and a slew of houseplants that all have names. She still loves hamburgers, drawing, and anthropomorphic food. She is represented by Alexandra Penfold at Upstart Crow Literary. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter!

WSS Fiction (MG,YA, Adult) Faculty

Carrie Jones is the The New York Times bestseller author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series, Flying series, GirlHeroTips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and other uses for duct tape). She is also the coauthor, with Steve Wedel, of After Obsession and the upcoming In the Woods. She also co-edited Dear Bully. She also writes picture books about unconventional spies. Her books have been published all around the world, been bestsellers in France (thank you, France), and have received numerous awards.

Carrie lives in Bar Harbor, Maine and launched the Bar Harbor Kids Book Festival, and is active in Rotary International as the Public Image Coordinator for much of Canada and a lot of the United States. She’s also part of the Rotary Campaign against Human Trafficking.

A former newspaper reporter, poetry and news editor, city councilor, gymnastics coach, and volunteer firefighter, Carrie has won numerous press awards for newspaper writing and photography. She is a big fan of rescue animals and currently has three, Spartacus, Gabby, and Marsie.


Writers, Be Simple

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Writers, Be Simple

We’ve all heard the statistics:

  1. Writers take ten years to get their first novel published, on average
  2. The average children’s book writer makes 5k a year, if she’s lucky.
  3. If you are a writer for a living, you will starve.

Some writers will sell you their books about how you can be a thriving artist versus a starving artist as if there is this dichotomy between the two, an either or situation.

Life isn’t that simple.

Here are the Three First Steps To Being A Writer, MADE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE

You write the story you want to write.

You hone it and craft it until it’s the best story you can make it.

You send it to agents and editors or self publish it.

That’s it.

That’s how you become published.

You might make a ton of money. You might not. One book might make $500. One book might make $100,000.

It’s not the easiest thing to control, but what you can control is whether or not you’re lonely.

That you can battle.

You can create an in-person writing group or an online group, but if you are lonely in your writing life, YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY make friends, form a pack.

Writers. Loneliness. Tips to make a writing group

Writing Tip of the Pod

How do you form a writing group?
Here’s four easy steps:


  1. Decide the goal of your writing group – Support? Accountability? Critique
  2. Figure out when, where, and how often you want to meet.
  3. Invite a few people. Three to five is a good starting number.
  4. Find a way to communicate in between meetings that works for everyone. Facebook? Email? You get to decide.

Dog Tip for life

It’s okay to want a pack to roam with, to howl with.

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