At some stage, every aspiring writer has to take the plunge and find readers to critique his or her work. While your mom or best friend may be willing participants, they may not come back with the honest criticism that you really need. Sooner or later, it’s time to find a critique group.
The idea of reading my work aloud in a group setting seemed scary at first. Of course, I’m used to presenting my work in front of large groups of people in my workplace. Years ago, I worked as a television journalist and writing news stories and speaking live on camera never fazed me.
But fiction writing seemed different, somehow. More personal, even if my stories weren’t thinly-veiled autobiographies. Definitely more intimidating. What if people didn’t like what I wrote?
In the end, just like everything in life, a writer has to eventually overcome his fear. Both my critique groups are fantastic. They are honest with their critiques, yet supportive at the same time. They point out inconsistencies, awkwardly-worded sentences and holes in the plot. They see mistakes that I’ve grown too blind to see. And reading that work aloud before others doesn’t seem as scary as it used to, nor does receiving their criticism.
And, how does it feel to have my work torn apart by fellow writers? Honestly, refreshing.
I appreciate the honesty. I appreciate knowing when segments don’t flow for the reader or when the scene that is so crystal-clear in my own mind, simply leaves the reader scratching his head. Fresh eyes see things that I no longer notice. It may be human to grow defensive and think your reader simply doesn’t understand, but when you see reader after reader commenting on problems at the same point of a story, you’d better start revising. Fast.
And the more you submit your work for critiques, the more your defensiveness fades away. In another post, I write that it takes a village to write a book . I truly believe that.
If any of you are sitting on the fence about joining a writing group, my advice would be to dive right in. Yes, sharing your work and listening to critiques takes getting used to… but the good news is that it gets easier the longer you do it. Your work is bound to improve and you have the opportunity to help other writers to improve theirs.
And developing a thick skin has to help out as you prepare to submit your work and open yourself up to rejections. At least I hope it does…