What I'm writing about today is not your typical writers' group, nor is it a slam against those groups. I think being in a critique group and having your work read (as well as being motivated to get work ready to present) can be quite beneficial to a writer, especially a beginning writer.
But it's been my own experience, and that of others I've spoken with, that at some point for a lot of writers, you reach a level where you need something more. Or maybe the term should be something less.
Meeting weekly with four or five other writers who read and comment on each other's work can be educational. You can learn a lot about writing that way. You can also lose yourself and your voice that way.
Sometimes your group wants you to have a character do something else or believe something else. Or they re-write passages so that they sound "better."
You have to decide whether they're right, whether you'll take their advice or leave it as is. If you're struggling with sticking with your instincts, which may or may not be right, or going with the group, who may more closely represent the reading public, but who may also have become a closed circle of ideas, then maybe it's time to look for other readers or a different kind of reader.
If so, then consider what kind of readers you're looking for. There's a whole range -- those who write in your genre, those who don't, those who don't write at all but are avid readers, those who are great at line editing, those who see the overall picture and can spot inconsistencies, those who've read for you before, those who have no history with you at all....
If you go this route, then don't burn everyone on the first read. Have two or four read it the first go-round. Get their comments (a group meeting is a good idea), then decide what changes you feel comfortable making. If you've made some big changes, then have a second tier of different readers ready to read. If you need a third tier, then send it out to them after you've made other changes.
Each tier should be composed of new readers -- those who haven't already read a previous version of the manuscript.
Remember, though, the people who read for you have the reasonable expectation that you will read for them in this way. As you get, so shall you give.
4 months ago