Part of what I do at my company is offer editing services for authors. I often get manuscripts that are simply not ready for editing, and that would cost the author a small fortune for me to tear apart and put back together so that the manuscript is at least coherent. I tell them so. I tell them: what you should do is put this through a critique group first—you’ll make fabulous improvements—and then come back to me for editing if you want.
I’ve been recommending critique groups for about 10 years now, and in that time have had only two authors join. Everyone else either still wants me to edit, or goes away looking for another editor who will tell them their work is ready for editing.
So here are some good reasons to join a critique group:
- It doesn’t cost you anything. Well, that’s not quite true: it will cost you time and energy, as you’re expected to critique others’ work as well as receiving critiques yourself. But see #5, below. And the money you save can be better used when your book is ready for editing—and/or should you decide to self-publish, when you’ll need to hire all sorts of people like cover designers, layout people, and so on.
- You can do it in person. Many writers prefer the weekly meetings that keep them focused and give them deadlines. Check for local critique groups through your chapter of the National Writers Union (you do belong, right?), at your local library, or check out this partial list.
- You can do it online. If you’re not near a group, or prefer to have an assortment of critiques from all over the world, then online groups are terrific. The one I recommend is the Internet Writing Workshop, where you can participate in interesting discussions about the writing life as well as join critique groups for nearly any genre you can imagine.
- Critiquing others’ work improves your own. I can’t say this strongly enough. Reading others’ work with an eye to whether or not it “works” will give you that eye when you come back to your own work. Not to mention the karma points!
- You know you’re not alone. Writing is one of the loneliest activities on the planet. You create alone. You write alone. You read alone. And that’s all well and good, but when you receive your 48th straight rejection, it’s good to have people with whom to share it. People who understand. (And they’ll be your biggest supporters when you finally get that acceptance, too!)
So there you have it: five great reasons to join a critique group. Why not do it today? And then you’ll be … beyond the elements of style!