The Good, The Bad & The Necessary: Critique Groups by Ally Broadfield

Posted on Dec 30, 2013 by   6 Comments | Posted in Blog · Uncategorized

FF&P-Ally BroadfieldThe benefits of belonging to the right critique group are numerous, including giving you encouragement and support, creating accountability, and helping you take your writing to a new level. But what if your critique group isn’t giving you these things?

 Five signs it’s time for you to find a new critique group:

 5. Are the critiques you receive full of empty praise or nitpicky comments?

Though encouraging comments are always appreciated, if glowing praise is the only feedback you’re getting from your critique partners, they aren’t helping you grow as a writer. At the same time, a misplaced comma is not going to prevent you from getting a publishing contract, so focusing solely on grammar isn’t going to help you move to the next level either. The purpose of a critique group is to give you substantive feedback on your work. Before deciding to leave your critique group for this reason, make sure you specify the type of feedback you’re looking for and see if your critiques become more useful.

 4. Are you writing to please the group instead of following your instincts?

On the other hand, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you edit your work to please your critique group. As we all know, writing is very subjective, and what one person loves another person will dislike. Other writers don’t always know what’s right for your story. Make sure you trust your instincts and protect your voice and your writing style. Sometimes constructive criticism can be hard to take, but if it still doesn’t feel right after you’ve given it some time and carefully analyzed the feedback, don’t change it. If you find that you are frequently receiving unhelpful advice, it might be time to look for a new critique group.

 3. Are the writers in your group advancing their careers?

A good critique group will continually evolve. As you critique others and receive feedback in return, you should become a better writer. But is the same true of your critique partners? It’s fine and can even be beneficial to have writers at different levels, but are the other members of your group improving their writing skills, entering contests, getting publishing contracts, or otherwise advancing their careers? If not, it might be time to find a new group where the members treat their writing as a career rather than a hobby.

2. Is the group focused on critiquing?

Is your group focused on critiquing, and do all members get equal attention? While you want to be a member of a supportive, dynamic group, if the group is more focused on marketing and promotion than critiquing, or if one person seems to dominate the group, it might be time to leave.

Negativity can also be a huge problem in some groups. Writing is difficult, and constant rejections, writers block, and other frustrations can overcome some aspiring writers. If your group atmosphere is negative and more time is spent complaining than critiquing, get out before you succumb to it. 

  1. Do you feel discouraged after you receive critiques? 

            It’s difficult to step back from your work and accept constructive criticism from others, but if you find yourself consistently feeling discouraged rather than encouraged by the feedback you’re receiving, it might be time to consider finding a new group. You need to be a part of group that believes in your abilities and wants to help you succeed. A good critique group will help you weather the bad times and cheer for you during the good times. 

            Once you’ve weighed the benefits against the disadvantages of your group, be honest with yourself and decide whether it’s time to leave your critique group. It’s not an easy decision to make, especially if you’ve been with the group for a long time, but if you treat your writing like a business rather than a hobby, you have to do what’s best for your career.  

Have you left a critique group that wasn’t right for you? 

Bio: Ally Broadfield lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, five dogs, two cats, a rabbit, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance and middle grade/young adult fantasy. Her first book, Just a Kiss, is coming from Entangled Publishing in January 2014.

You can find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter (though she makes no claims of using any of them properly).

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6 Responses to "The Good, The Bad & The Necessary: Critique Groups by Ally Broadfield"

  1. Comment by Cathryn Cade
    December 30, 2013 9:20 am


    I have not belonged to a group, but did split with a long time crit partner. We simply decided our work schedules no longer meshed–I was writing hard and fast, and she wanted a much more leisurely pace. But it was also time in terms of craft, as we were learning at a different pace.

    It was not an easy decision to make, just as it’s not easy to leave a publisher or an agent.

    We have to make decisions based on our careers and our own needs–this surely doesn’t make the process easy, does it?

    Thanks for the great article!

  2. Comment by Ally Broadfield
    December 30, 2013 12:00 pm


    You said it perfectly-the process is never easy, but we have to make decisions based on our careers and our own needs.

    Thanks for stopping by today.

  3. Comment by Charmaine Gordon
    December 30, 2013 7:58 pm

    What a wonderful succinct article. I’m impressed and want to join a critique group w/u this week! About three years ago I joined a group of RWA published authors and I find the comments are nitpicky stupid and often leave me doubting my work. I’ve written six full length romance/suspense novels and 5 long/short stories in a series for mature readers full of fun and romance. My publisher, Vanilla Heart loves my writing and embraces my work. What to do? ’nuff said to a busy lady.
    Happy and healthy New Year to you and your loved ones and success on your debut.

  4. Comment by Ally Broadfield
    December 30, 2013 9:39 pm

    Thanks, Charmaine! Happy New Year to you and yours as well.

    I wish you luck in finding a critique group or partner that works for you.

  5. Comment by Karen Duvall
    December 31, 2013 2:09 pm

    I’ve been a member of a few different critique groups over the years and the one prevalent problem I’ve had is that members fade off and stop participating. I think forming a crit relationship with perhaps 1 or 2 people at most is the better option, at least for me. The more in the group, the more you have to reciprocate, which can eat into your writing time.

    I’ve also noticed that critique is most valuable after I’ve completed a first draft of the manuscript. Letting others see my work while still in a stage of gestation is counterproductive for me because I’m still working through the story and characters. I have a great beta reader right now who is giving me the criticism and brainstorming I need. I’m going to forego the “group” thing until I can find something that works.

    Happy New Year!

    • Comment by Ally Broadfield
      December 31, 2013 10:09 pm

      Thanks for coming by, Karen. We discuss both critique partners and beta readers in the workshop. Many writers, especially those further along on their writing journey, prefer to use those options.

      I also like to finish a first draft, or for a proposal three chapter and the synopsis, before I have anybody critique my work.

      It’s great that you found a system that works for you. Happy New Year!

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