Critiquing Groups part 3 - extra benefits
There are other ways my partners help me apart from giving feedback on my work.
If I’m feeling down about my writing I can ask my partners for help pushing past it. At a meeting I might say to them, ‘I’m feeling my writing is really terrible and I’m not getting any better. Can you tell me something you think I do well.’ They are always happy to oblige and I leave the meeting feeling much better.
Another thing I like to do once a year (New Year’s seems most appropriate) is to ask my partners for an objective assessment of my writing in general. Maybe it’s the teacher in me but I like getting regular updates on how others think I’m progressing overall – my strengths and weaknesses, how my writing has improved. Areas I still need to work on.
If all partners choose to take part in this it can be a helpful tool with future critiquing. Defining and discussing each other’s writing weaknesses helps us all focus on improving them, both as authors and when we review the works of others.
Another way my crit partners help me is if I run into a problem with my story. Usually this involves some section of the plot. The trick to getting the best sort of help is to clearly explain your problem and present your partners with a specific question to answer. (If my character does X in the second chapter how can they do Y in the 10th?)
These are often our most animated sessions as everyone feeds off the ideas of others. Plus you’re capitalizing on the knowledge people have outside of writing.
Another fun thing to I do with my partners is to read someone’s dialogue aloud. Playing a different character each, two or more of us will enact a scene like a play.
By far the most fun things I do with my crit partners is writing retreats. Three times a year the four of us go away to a remote setting, often with other writer friends, and spend an entire week doing nothing but writing and talking about writing.
A good crit partner is a treasure. They are part editor, part agent, part therapist, part friend, all rolled into one. If you find someone like that cherish them, and never ever take them for granted. They are truly a gift.