Thursday, March 18, 2010


"They" say that you can write anything on your blog that isn't illegal, immoral  or...fattening(?).  So today I'm going to vent.

A friend of mine ( cyber friend) was crushed recently when she tried to join an online critique group.  Both of mine are full, otherwise she'd be with me.  So the women in this group are all SCBWI members, which...supposedly...means they are all good writers, honest, friendly and supportive.  Uh huh.

To join this group, my friend, as well as others who were seeking a group, had to send a short personal bio and a "sample of writing."  I should have warned her.  When a group says it wants a "writing sample", that usually means one of two things: either they are ALL published and don't want anyone who isn't, OR none of them are published and they don't want someone who is because that person would "show them up."

My friend is published in national children's magazines.  She was published before I was.  She is an excellent writer, has no desire to write books, wants to continue writing fiction and non-fiction for magazines.  She was turned down.  The reason?  She "wasn't polished enough" for the group.  The interesting thing is that NO ONE in that group is published.  Yet a published writer was not "polished" enough for them.  No...they just didn't want someone who writes better than they do.

WHY does any critique group ask for a writing sample?  Don't you belong to a group to better what writing skills you already have?  Isn't the whole idea of a critique group based on each person helping every other person to learn more and become more "polished?"

I hear a lot of groups are asking for writing samples.  How insulting to the person who is turned down because they "aren't polished enough" or they aren't published or haven't been writing long enough...or what ever other LAME excuse the group can come up with.

It really upsets me.  Critique groups are supposed to be made up of supportive people who want to help other writers get to the point where they can reasonably expect to be published.  Instead, I'm hearing more and more about groups that are harshly critical, become personally offensive, and do nothing to support or help each other.  These are the people who have no business being in critique groups at all.

I started an online critique group three years ago.  None of the women who joined knew each other...we are scattered all over the US and one is in So. Africa.  We started with 6, lost one, got a new one, lost her, and the rest of us ( 5) have been together for the whole three years.  I was published, no one else was, now 2 of the others are published.  We're friends, not just critique partners.  That's what a critique group is supposed to be all about.

How many of you have had bad experiences with critique groups?  How many good experiences?

Think about it.  Let me know.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's awful that your friend was denied access to a critique group. How unfortunate that green-eyed monsters abound in every facet of life. I've taken several online writing courses that worked along the same lines as critique groups. I suppose everyone was accepted because we all paid our money.

    But the last course I was in actually worked into a critique group beyond the course. We even accepted a newcomer based on the word of one of our group. And it was a great experience. Everyone was truthful without being mean, able to get their point across without hurting feelings. We had all levels of writers (I think there were 5 of us), one published (me - short fiction), one who only wanted to write for pleasure, and the others were all working towards being published.

    I guess my point is that you get out of a critique group what you put into it. There will always be those who wish they could write, who think they can write, who write only okay, and those who will ultimately be successful. There will always be those who are lazy and expect others to critique their work but won't read anyone else's work. There will always be those who give you a perfunctory "It's good, but I can't really say anything because it's not my genre," leaving you to wonder 1) did they even bother to read it? and 2) do they not realize that good writing is good regardless of genre? And there will be those who give you a thorough critique as long as you give them the same.

    So there you go. The long and the short of it is that just because you or I find critique groups to be valuable, they aren't for everyone. Just like everything in life.