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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
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.
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.
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…