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Group therapy––yes or no? No really, let it all out...

clowntherapy.JPGWhen I was in design school my routine went like this: Stay up until 4:00am working on a project. Catch a few hours of sleep before my 9:00am class. Put my work on the "critique rail" alongside the work of 25 classmates. The instructor would come in with a howitzer and blow big deserving holes into our work. Then we, the students, would come down from the hills to the field of battle and begin shooting the weak and injured. We’d leave class with our assignment for the next day. Wash off the blood. Rinse. Repeat.

This was my life for several years.

Now as a creative director, I submit my work to a firing line of clients each week. The same headaches. The same workflows. But like a prostitute, as opposed to some bar floozy, I get paid for my services.

So do I need more critical input in my life, after all, I’m married right? (Thanks folks, I’ll be here all night, you’re a beautiful audience).

Seriously though, as I’m rounding the bend on my 2nd draft I’m feeling the need for more input––in the form of ye ol’ critique group .

I was able to spend some time last night with author T.L. Hines to pick his brain about this very subject.

And he wasn’t high on their merits. He recommended trying to find that special reader. Someone that understands what your writing is all about. But, of course he found his special reader—in a critique group.

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Reader Comments (8)

Critique groups.....I've been in one for two years. Feel my writing has improved as a result of feedback. There are two in the group who understand where I'm trying to go. I've found everyone finds different kinds of things to comment on. Overall my novel is better for it, and you get good ideas.
The hard thing for me used to be: deciding which comments to discount or ignore. I had to develop an internal filter--this may not be hard for you, but it too me some time.
February 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS.R.Hatcher
Thanks for stopping by. How early in the process did you swap work? First or second drafts? Partials? Or all along the way? Just curious.
February 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
First draft on the novel I just finished. However at that time the group that formed was just me and one other person and we spent time discussing what we were both trying "to do." Thus he became a valuable compass point.

The novel I just started re-working is being critiqued - just submitted Ch. 2 - 2nd draft.
Everyone is different--I like feedback and ideas. Of course, a lot depends on the people. Anyway, neat site.
February 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS.R.Hatcher
I have two "ideal readers". One is my husband, who is fairly (eg. not at all) impartial, but is more of a support system. The second is another writer, who I found in a class, and I respect her opinion greatly. We are also in a critique group together.

Both individual and group critiques are important, in my opinion. I've been in classes where the teacher's main goal was to skewer everyone new (it was a novel writing workshop and many people had been in it for years). I'm glad that I went through that, though, because it'll make bad reviews look positively cheery in comparison.

I say definitely try to find an ideal reader, but I wouldn't stop at just one. If you know other talented writers, get their input. I find it a good experience just to get my stuff out there.

Good luck,
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMaia Sepp
Thanks. I have a pretty thick skin. Got it the hard way by way of my vocation. My wife is a great support, and she doesn't sugar-coat things, but I do need more outside input. Once I get the 2nd draft finished I'll post the first 20-30 pages to the site and find a critique group.
February 10, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie
I belong to a critique group. I have found their input invaluable, but again it's the grain of salt thing. The other problem is that we're all guilty of focusing too much on what isn't right and not enough on the strengths of each other's work. This might be because my three partners are all published and I am not.

Also, because my group is involved in the project from inception to completion they aren't able to see the big picture view of the book. It would be nice to have a perfect reader who can read the later drafts and tell me if its a good read overall.

I do find that having other writers read it is a good thing. They catch things that the average reader might overlook or might be unable to articulate. But I tend to be pretty picky now about who gets to read things, especially in the early stages.

Anyway, good luck.

February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJaye Wells
Yep, a group is invaluable, imo. You don't have to take their advice, but it's interesting to hear their opinions. I'm in one with some different sorts of personalities and writing styles, so it's always fun to see who's going to pick at what.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBob
I can't wait to get my 2nd draft ironed out so I can actually get some critical input. And also work on something else.
February 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie

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