Pros and cons of a critiquing group

Two young women sitting at a table and talking about a stack of papers between them.Like anyone who’s ever studied creative writing, I spent quite a significant amount of time as part of a critiquing group.  In my case, this was part of my classwork rather than one that I sought out myself, so my experience with it was a bit of a mixed bag.  My own personal experience aside, I formed some pros and cons specifically about a critiquing group that I’d love to share with you all!

Critiquing group pros and cons

Pros of a critiquing group

  • You get to spend time with other writers: As someone who constantly freaked out my non-writer friends and family, this was my absolute favourite part of being a member of a critiquing group!  No need to explain your weird way of seeing things or apologize for getting excited over a really well-written piece of writing!  Such a great feeling. 
  • You get an educated* opinion on your writing: Having someone else offer their educated opinion on what you’ve written can be really helpful to take your work to the next level, whatever you decide that to be.  While non-writers are great and everything — we love you! — having someone who knows writing rip your work apart can be really helpful in making it stronger.  Once you put it back together, that is…
  • It forces you to see your writing from an external point of view: When you get stuck in your own head, staying objective about your work is impossible.  Having someone offer thoughts, opinions, and suggestions can help you see what they’re seeing and then give you fresh energy to keep your work churning.

Cons of a critiquing group

  • No matter how prepared you are, it can hurt: Anyone who’s ever been in a critiquing group already knows this.  The reason that this is a con is that very few people are actually prepared to take the critiques and, sometimes, cold criticism that comes out of a group of other writers.
  • Critiquing is only part of the feedback process: This is where I felt my time in creative writing “classes” fell short.  Out of the many, many hours spent in a classroom, less than 2 hours were spent on actual lectures and classwork.  The rest was spent critiquing in groups.  Since critiquing is only part of the process in strengthening your writing, you must have those other supportive and helpful steps in place so that you can strengthen your writing.
  • Your group members have to be educated*: If your group members are as inexperienced and as confused as you, it might be basically just a roast and not a helpful critique. Without guidance and experience, a critique group can’t really be filled with support and tips.

Critiquing groups: Not my fav

As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of critiquing groups.  This is only my own personal experience with them, though.  When used properly, they’re an irreplaceable part of a writer’s journey to better writing.  But when they’re used incorrectly, they can destroy writers from the inside, out.  But, that’s a story for another day.

Thoughts?  Arguments?  Got your own pros and cons about critiquing groups you’d love to list?  Share away!

*Educated, in this case, doesn’t refer to an actual degree or anything.  It just means that they have to know how a critiquing group works, how to make sure that their critiques are helpful, and how to make sure everyone else understands what they’re trying to say.

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Kelterss View All →

Kelterss is an experienced freelance content writer and a published author based in New Brunswick, Canada. She writes website content, blog posts, and product descriptions for customers worldwide. Kelterss specializes in writing about mental health, fitness, and dog behaviour. Freelancing since 2014, Kelterss has earned over 3,200 reviews and has a 4.9/5-star rating.

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