Is Your Spouse the Only Person Who Reads Your Writing?

Signs that it is time to join a critique group.

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: January 5, 2011

Is Your Spouse the Only Person Who Reads Your Writing?

Is your spouse the only person who regularly reads your work? Then you likely need a writing critique group. As honest as your significant other may be, he or she has to live with you--the members of a writing critique group don't. More to the point, feedback is essential to the growth of every writer. If you have only one reader, you've imposed a glass ceiling on your writing career. To learn more, read this month's Q&A with Becky Levine, author of the indispensable The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions.


Becky Levine is the author of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions. She has been a freelance editor for ten years and has belonged to her own critique groups for almost fifteen. Becky speaks at workshops and conferences and has written articles for Writer's Digest magazine. She lives in California's Santa Cruz mountains with her husband and son. For more information, visit http://www.beckylevine.com

Q: At what point will a writer know s/he is ready to join or form a critique group?

A: I think any writer can join or start a critique group--they may just be ready for a different type of group than another writer. The best thing a writer can do before jumping into a critique group is look at their goals--whether they want to critique in-person or online, how big a group they're looking for, if they want to critique with writers working in a specific genre. And the most important question they should ask themselves is where they are on their writing path--how much time do they want to put into their writing today, whether they've been writing productively for a while or are just getting started, and how close do they (honestly) think they are toward querying an agent or editor or having a book ready to self-publish. Writers of different skills can critique together, but a writer should be aware of what will make them comfortable and productive and look for a group that is the right fit.

Q: What are the top three attributes writers should look for in a critique group?

A: A writer should be looking for a group that:
-Meets at a time and place (including online) that will make it easy for the writer to commit to showing up, with writing and critiques.
-Lets each writer work at their productivity level--with time to have their work critiqued and to critique writing from others.
-Where the writer feels comfortable and safe, where they can share their writing and receive respectful, constructive feedback.

Q: If someone is creating a critique group, what are the top 3 qualities writers should look for in prospective members?

A: A writer creating a critique group should look for members who:
-Have an equal level of commitment to the group.
-The writer feels comfortable and relaxed with, open to sharing writing and feedback.
-Are flexible and willing to grow--in both their writing craft and their critique skills.

Q: Should a writer be part of a group for his or her entire writing career, or just the duration of time required to critique a single manuscript?

A: I think critiquing is for life. :-) Obviously, if a writer has decided that they have one book to write, and that's it, they don't need to stick with a group after it's done. On the other hand, writers who plan to keep writing can brainstorm ideas with their group, get motivated by watching other members write, and continue to grow their writing by critiquing, even if they aren't putting new words on a page that month.

Q: Now that you've had a book published, how has your relationship to your critique group changed?

A: I don't think it's changed that much. Everybody in the group was excited for me and happy to help me with their critiques as I wrote The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. And we celebrated big time when it was published! They still watch me writing and struggling with my current projects, and they'll still argue (nicely!) with me when I give a critique they don't agree with. We've been critiquing together for a long time now, and every one of us keeps getting better and better at this writing thing--in good part, I think, because of those years of critiques.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her? If you don't have an agent, how did you come to be published by Writer's Digest Books?

A: My agent for adult nonfiction is Jessica Faust (http://www.bookends-inc.com/about_us.html) at BookEnds, LLC (http://www.bookends-inc.com). I was lucky enough to be speaking at a conference, as a freelance editor, and to sit on a panel with Jane Friedman (http://janefriedman.com), who was still with Writer's Digest then. There was a lot of talk about critiquing during the panel, and afterward I took a breath and pitched her the idea for the book. Some discussion and an outline later, and I was on the way.

Q: What are you working on now? What should my readers look to read from you next?
A: I'm working on my fiction projects at this time--I write fiction for children and teens. I have a completed middle-grade mystery that I'd love to find representation for, and I'm writing a young-adult historical novel and a picture book as well. I'm also starting to work on some nonfiction for kids--hoping to find homes for those pieces with magazines and educational publishers.

Excerpted from Latinidad?« ?® 2003 by Marcela Landres

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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