Friday, October 22, 2010

A Chat with My Critique Group

Almost two years ago, four aspiring writers familiar with each other through blogging decided to become critique partners. I was blessed to be one of the four. Wendy P. Miller, Terri Tiffany, and Cindy Wilson are tremendous writers. Each has a unique voice and a compelling writing style.

Many manuscripts later, we are still going strong. Our critique group has helped me in so many ways. We are more than a critique group; we're friends, fellow believers, and we're all dedicated to being the best writers we can be.

Welcome, Wendy, Terri, and Cindy! Thank you for sharing your opinions about critique groups. I appreciate your candid answers to the questions.

Were you nervous about joining a critique group with people you had never met in person?

Terri: Not at all. I have worked with others in the past who I met online through Faithwriters and found it a great experience.

Cindy: I was nervous about being in a critique group period--because this was the first (and only) time I've ever been involved with one. I asked myself a lot of questions, even as I was excited about belonging to my first group. Will they like me? How honest should I be with my critiquing? What if they think my writing is horrible or I'm not qualified to give advice?

But it ended up being a tremendous blessing that I didn't know these women beforehand. Not only did I gain new friends and support, but I also got the opportunity to learn from others with experience I didn't have and get feedback from fresh eyes with new and unique perspectives.

What is the hardest part of being in a critique group?

Terri: Not being able to read as much as I would like to sometimes.

Jill: The time issue. I would love to read everything that's sent to me right away, but many times I need a few weeks for each project. Our group is very good about e-mailing each other with estimates on when we'll be able to get to a critique.

What is the best part about belonging?

Wendy: I love the critiques. I’m unafraid of the red markups. In fact, I crave them. I know my partners have the best in mind for my work and I enjoy the unique gifts each member offers. Everyone adds a fresh perspective while reviewing my work. That’s one of my favorite parts about the group. I also appreciate the encouragement we offer one another in this snail’s pace industry.

Terri: I love being part of a close group to cheer on the successes, and the support is wonderful when I get a rejection too!

Jill: Yes, I love that we share more than just critiques--we share each success and even the not-so-pleasant rejections. It's wonderful to have genuine encouragement after getting bad news.

How has joining this group improved your writing?

Terri: It has really improved my writing. Each one of my partners has a specialty and will take the time to explain some needs to me.

Cindy: Each critique partner has strengths and I learn from those with their feedback on my work as well as through reading their stories. Since joining this group, I really believe my writing has grown by leaps and bounds. Because of their individual perspectives, their own strengths, and the various experience they have with craft, genre, and the publishing industry, each of my critique partners has contributed a great deal toward helping me grow and improve my writing.

Jill: All three push me to use powerful words, avoid cliches (I'm still working on this one!), and really get to the heart of what my message is in each sentence. They spot areas that lag and point out where something needs to be fleshed out more. They've helped me move beyond the "work on your craft" rejections, and for that I will forever be in their debt!

If you were to give advice to someone who doesn't belong to a critique group, what would you say?

Wendy: Join one. ASAP. It’s worth it. Pray first. I knew I needed more people to come alongside my work and I wasn’t sure how this would happen. God knew. Within weeks of praying, I received an email from one of our group members. Since, I’ve been blessed by this group and a few others who’ve taken me under their wings. God really does want to answer our prayers.

As a side, I’ve also begun meeting with a fellow author in person to pray about
our writing, its impact and God’s vision for us. This face-to-face interaction
has also served as a great blessing in my life.

Terri: I would tell them to find one soon.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients to a successful critique group?

Jill: Set up guidelines beforehand so everyone has the same expectations. Also, seek out people you trust. I'd never met Terri, Wendy, or Cindy before we joined forces, but I'd read their blogs long enough to know they were committed to their writing, they were kind, and they shared my Christian values.

Wendy: Willingness to be truthful.
In order to improve, you need folks who’ll be honest with you.

This comes in many forms. An uplifting comment accompanying a correction. An
unexpected email. I’ve been thrilled I was able to meet two of my critique
partners in person. To hug them. To laugh with them. And at one point, even cry
a little.

An understanding you won’t love every single point made. Knowing yourself well
enough to sense when you might be receiving comments with oversensitivity. A
decision to step back and evaluate the critique, to weigh the thoughts of your
partners and to see value in every comment, whether you decide to make the
changes or not.

Matthew 18:15-20 rocks it out on this one. If issues arise, address them with
the specific party. Pray together and for one another. “For where two or three
come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Can’t say enough about how important this one is in this circumstance and really
in every relationship.

Take the time to invest in the other members. Don’t skim. This is the whole
treat others the way you’d like to be treated. You want partners you can trust
will pour themselves into your work. When you find that it is such a cool

Thank you, Wendy, Terri, and Cindy for sharing your thoughts on critique groups today. I'm thankful to each of you for your friendship, your encouragement, your time, and your critiques.

Do you have any questions about critique groups? Don't be shy! I'm happy to share with you.

Unfamiliar with my critique partners? Their names are linked to their blogs. Check them out!

Wendy Paine Miller writes upmarket women’s fiction imbued with literary elements. She’s deliberate about exploring the richness and complexity of her characters. Her novels are interwoven with tension, gripping emotion and life as
you know it. She loves writing stories infused with hope, stories spliced with colorful characters that inspire readers to see the world in a new light. Her greatest desire is to encourage readers to think anew by unlocking previous
ways of viewing life and relationships.

Terri Tiffany is a contributing author to over forty articles published in magazines and anthologies including six in Chicken Soup for the Soul and one with Adams Media. She earned a BA in Psychology and counseled adults before owning a Christian bookstore for five years. She resides in Florida with her husband where she enjoys teaching memoir writing. Her fiction is mainly women’s fiction with strong romantic elements.

Cindy R. Wilson writes contemporary inspirational romance, glorifying God through stories of faith and love. She has spent time learning the craft while writing more than a dozen novels. She has also been a member of ACFW for over a year and blogs about life and writing at her personal blog and a group blog for aspiring authors.

Have a terrific weekend!


  1. Thanks, Jill, Wendy, Terri and Cindy for sharing this. I've met two of you in person and I feel like I've met the other two of you. You've got a great partnership going!!

    If one of you has a novel you want critiqued, where in the process of writing that novel do you send it to a critique partner and how much of the novel do you send at one time? And, do you send it to all three, or one at a time?

  2. Thanks for your kind words! Heather, we send over chapters whenever we feel the need for another eye. I just sent my first three chapters to help get them straight before I proceed much further.

  3. So cool how this came out, Jill.

    I think the way my sentences broke up makes them stand out. Clever plan. ;)

    I love being in this group with you!
    ~ Wendy

  4. Nice to get to know all of you a bit better! The dynamics of your group sounds very strong. I've just attended my first critique group meeting arranged through So, we're all absolute strangers! I hope it works out. Thanks for the tips!

  5. What a fun glimpse into your critique group! These relationships are like gold!

  6. Jill, this is great! I love posts about critique groups because I adore mine so much that I want everyone to have one :D I also forgot to mention that I love how group has structure but flexibility at the same time. You ladies rule!

  7. Thanks, everyone, I'm glad you stopped by.

    Heather: It depends. Sometimes we'll send a few chapters, sometimes a full manuscript. We do send our work to all members, but if someone doesn't have time to critique it, they can pass or get to it later. We look at each other's synopses and queries, too.

    Terri, Wendy, and Cindy: Thanks for chiming in! I appreciate you coming by!

    Lynn: I hope your group is a good fit! Good luck!

    Erica: I agree! Your group sounds amazing too. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. Great post, Jill. You four ladies are truly blessed indeed. I'm still searching for that right fit. My crit partner is getting ready to go on a book tour, so I'm alone again. Well, not alone. God is with me. :) And the hubby can critique with the best of them. He's dang BRUTAL!

    But there's something to be said about writers meeting and sharing in person or online. Have a super weekend Jill. *waves to Cindy*

  9. Hi Jill, Wendy, Terri & Cindy -

    I didn't know you were critique partners. How neat!

    While I don't belong to an official critique group, I have a couple of friends, who jump in when I need some help. I do the same for them. Perhaps, we should consider more frequent exchanges.

    Susan :)

  10. Wonderful interiview! What a great idea to ask you CPS a few Q's. Thank you, ladies. :o)

    I used to have a critique group, but now instead I have a really great set of online blog friends who share stuff back and forth. They are wonderful.

    Now I'm off to meet Wendy--she's the only one I don't know. :o)

  11. What a great post! It sounds like you ladies are quite a force! I have an AMAZING critique partner. She is beyond what I could have asked for. I really believe the Lord blessed me big time with her! And she's an amazing writer as well. =)

  12. I am so thankful for the one I joined. I was nervous but now we laugh and encourage each other so much. It is a blessing! :O)

  13. What a great post! I don't have a group - but I do have a couple partners and I love 'em both!

  14. Robyn: Let's hear it for honest spouses! What a blessing!

    Susan JR: We go through really busy periods and slow periods. It just depends on what we have done. I'm glad you have readers!

    Jackee: Sounds like you have a great system!

    T.Anne: Wonderful! I'm so glad you love your c.p.!

    Diane: It's terrifying at first, isn't it? But it's definitely worth it!

    Katie: Having trusted c.p.'s means the world to me. I'm glad you have some too!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Enjoyed your comments ladies, thanks for sharing.

  16. It sounds like you all have a great group!!

    I have critique partners but am not in a group at the moment.

    Thanks :-)

  17. Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like a wonderful group, and I appreciate each of you sharing your thoughts!

  18. How fun to see the different answers from each member of your group! I applaud you for doing this.

    I've found my critique groups invaluable to my growth as a writer and a person.

    Here's my question: does the online group take up more time than attending once a month in person, where I spend 3-4 hours?

  19. Em: Glad you enjoyed it!

    Paul: Nice! It's great to have writers to bounce our stories off.

    Connie: You're welcome!

    Jen: Yes, me too. Your question is hard for me to answer. Some months, we'll have little or no critiques, but other months, we'll all have things we need read. I usually spend 1-2 hours on a partial and 6-10 hours on a full mansucript. A query or synopsis might take me as little as a half hour up to an hour. We all had full manuscripts to critique this summer, so it was busy, but the last two months have been quiet.

    Hope that helps!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  20. I had no idea these other writers were your critique partners. That is so cool!

    And it sounds like you exchange and critique on line, which makes things convenient. I like that.

    Overall my experience with my critique group has been positive. I'd say it's important to remember to tell the writer what they did right, in addition to letting them know what didn't work.

  21. Interesting article, Jill. You are blessed to have such great women help you out and share the writing burden.

  22. What a fun idea to have a discussion with your critique group! Critique groups are the best. :)

  23. I agree, this is an interesting and fun peek into the thoughts of a critique group. What a blessing to have such support. Neat stuff.

  24. Jill:
    This sounds like a good experience for all of you.


I love to hear from you!