Monday, June 29, 2009

Crit Groups: Face to Face, or Online, Which is Best?

Tip of the Day: Some friends and I were discussing challenges on Friday, so I challenged myself to find an hour a day for my writing (not necessarily in one sitting). But could I scrape up an hour a day for something I love? At least it inspired me to get work done on a summer weekend!

Most of us writers have a trusted few people who read our work in progress and offer us comments to keep us on track. Some people only like one beta reader; some people want as many different points of view as possible. Critique groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some people have different crit groups for their picture books and novels. I have two crit groups: one in person and one online. Which is better? Well, it depends.

For example, deadlines. My online crit group has a pre-planned schedule for submissions. My in person crit group is more casual: submit when you're ready. That disorganization actually works for us. If everybody submitted at once, we'd just decide on a way to stagger things. The definite deadline in my online crit group stops me from slacking off. I need fresh pages to submit every three weeks. The casualness of my in person group is great, though, when someone wants to send out a contest entry or manuscript quickly. We can e-mail each other pages right away.

Okay, what about the quality of the critiques? Do online crit partners feel a distance that allows them to be a little tougher? Eh, not really. My in person crit partners can soften the blow. "Your story isn't working. Oh, no, don't look so crushed. Here, have a chocolate chip cookie." On the other hand, when people are talking face-to-face, it's very easy to get off topic. "Wow, these cookies are good. Have you ever tried the peanut butter cookies here?"

Are in person groups more encouraging then? I don't know, I think my online group is very supportive. We follow each others careers and cheer each others successes. I've been with them for almost two years now, so we've built up a level of trust in each other.

So why do I have two groups? One, it keeps me writing! Deadlines, meetings, critiquing manuscripts ... it keeps me thinking about writing and inspiring me to write. My in person group helps me brainstorm and bounce around story ideas. My online group keeps me producing on a regular basis. Also, I can test drive two different versions of a story.

And I love the gossipy intimacy of an in person group. What's up in the industry? Didja hear about such-and-such? And I love the international, varied experiences of my online group to check that I'm not assuming Upstate New York is like the rest of the world. How could I give up either group?

Poll time! What's the perfect crit group mix for you?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

LOL! Really? We get off topic in our in-person group? :)

Emily Marshall said...

I think both are nice, and you are lucky to have too good ones!!

Kate Fall said...

Right now, the winner of the poll is "more than one critique group" so I guess it's more common than I thought! I hope you can all see the results by clicking the "view results" link.