• Paulla Hunter

Critique Groups

There was a book written by Robert Fulghum called, All I really Need To Know I learned in Kindergarten. In it was a phrase that always stuck with me, "Hold hands when you go out into the world." That's a paraphrase, but the worth of the statement is worth pondering.

When you begin writing, and sometimes for many years into your career, it is wise to try to find a critique group to encourage you when you get down (and you will get down), and to help you see your work through an objective prism. Sounds easy. Find a small group of like-minded writers, meet regularly and give each other feedback.

It is not. You may have to try out several combinations until you find one that fits you well. I belong to an eclectic group of authors who do not write anything like me, but they all bring a wealth of experience to the group. All are relatively skilled at grammar and spelling, which should go without saying, but sometimes is the exception rather than the rule.

My group includes one who has a journalism background, one who has a law background, one who is versed in police procedures, one who is our "techie" and videographer, and one who has a wide range of contacts in a vast network, and who can find answers to a variety of questions about publishing. That's quite a lot of diversity sitting at one table.

None of us write the same thing, though I've seen groups work well where all the writers write mysteries, thrillers or romance. Mine writes everything from paranormal thrillers to young adult and children's literature. We are not technically each other's "target audience" but we can give our opinions and suggestions from each of our unique perspectives.

It is important to find people who first and foremost wish you well, and second who know how to critique your work and not your personality. Writing is so personal it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. It is hard enough to hear that you have lost the thread of the plot, without hearing "I hate your character." The first, you can fix, the later is nonspecific and leaves you feeling personally wounded. Words can be weaponized, so be careful what comes out of your mouth.

If you are lucky enough to find a group who is helpful without being brutal, you will be truly blest. It is a nasty world out there, and it helps to have people who've got your back.