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Critique Groups: Workshopping your novel

You’ve finished your novel, and you’re at the stage where you don’t know whether it’s good or bad or… meh. What do you do next? You could send it off to a publisher and see whether they like it or not. Or you could workshop it with a group of fellow writers (whether online or off) in what’s sometimes called a critique group.

Critique

What’s a critique group?

A critique group is a place for writers to get and give feedback on their current work. Some of it can be guided, where the group has a list of things to check off or that needs to be addressed, or non-guided, where everything is quite free-flow. These groups can also be online via email or private groups, or in-person meetings, like the ones they have monthly at MYWriters Penang.

How does a critique work?

Each person submits a piece of their work, usually within a set word count, to the group. Then they read the pieces that other people in the group have submitted and give their opinions on it. Some of these can be very structured, but at the least, they should cover points like:

  • What’s your overall impression of the piece?
  • Was it confusing? If yes, why?
  • Did anything stick out to you (whether good or bad)?
  • What caught your attention?

The main things to remember in giving a critique are:

  • Be honest … but kind and tactful
  • Don’t bash people or genres
  • Don’t pick fights
  • Don’t forget to praise the good stuff
  • Remember, your opinion is just that: your opinion.

The main things to remember about receiving a critique are:

  • Listen, but remember that their opinion is just that: their opinion
  • Consider each suggestion at least briefly
  • Decide what’s best for your work

How does a critique really help me?

The reason critiques help is that they provide you with a fresh set of eyes on your work. The questions your peers ask or points they raise can help you figure out the problem areas in your story, highlight potential areas of confusion, or simply let you know where you did something well. Critiquing someone else’s work also helps you think more critically about the writing process and how your own writing may come across to readers.

Critiques shouldn’t be mean-spirited, but be an open way to share your work and grow together with fellow writers. You’ll find that both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis came out of the same writing group known as the Inklings. Here’s a list of famous writing groups.

If you’re still looking for a writing community, we’ve found most of our writing friends mainly from MYWriters and NaNoWriMo, because there’s nothing like a unified goal to help bring people together.

Remember, you can always quote your MYWriters member ID to get 10% off all services at Teaspoon Publishing. Register today!

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