- Between you and other writers
- Between you and the reader
- Between the reader and the subject or characters
- Between you and the editor
- Between you and your agent
We need others in our profession to give us feedback, keep us grounded and provide encouragement. You may be tempted, like I was at first, to insert friends and family into this role. Unless they’re also writers this dynamic just doesn’t work. They’ll unwittingly encourage you when you need a swift kick in the pants and administer the kick in the pants when you need encouragement.
That’s where a writers group, critique group or critique partner will help. But you have to be careful—some critique and writers groups can be toxic. I’ve visited some where the purpose appears to be to build up the one delivering the critique by tearing down the hapless author. You want to avoid these groups at all cost.
Here’s a list of what to look for in a group or a partner
- An encouraging atmosphere –not all sweetness and light—nobody improves on false compliments. But I’ve almost never found a manuscript that didn’t have some redeeming quality.
- A mutually beneficial relationship. You should both bring something valuable if it’s a partnership—you may excel at writing dialogue and your partner is a whiz at description.
- A hunger to improve. If it’s a group there should be a movement toward growth in the majority of members. Even if you’re all beginners, if you’re all reading writing books and attending classes you’ll be able to grow and learn together.
- A timekeeper. If someone’s not willing to keep track of the time not everyone will get a chance to be critiqued. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!