Improving Your Story through Feedback

Time to ShareOnce you’ve entered the revision stage of your writing journey, you may find yourself seeking feedback on your family history stories.  Of course, you know you can turn to friends and family, but their advice may fail to offer you the honest critiques you need to improve your story and writing. It may be wiser to seek feedback from another writer – a writer who understands your struggles and is immersed in the same genre. This is the point when you may want to consider joining or starting a critique group or finding a critique partner.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge through classes and reading but my real learning and advancement came through practicing my writing skills and through the feedback of a critique group, teachers and fellow writers along the way.  Creating relationships with other writers who are also involved in the writing process can be immensely rewarding.

How do you find a critique group or partner?

 Critique groups and writing groups are not necessarily the same thing. Critique groups are just that, a group of writers who gather on a regular basis to give feedback on each other’s writing. A writing group may offer critiques but not necessarily. A writing group may only gather to write alongside each other and nothing more. Before joining any group, be sure you understand the nature of the group.

In-Person or Online Groups. You have the option today of joining a group in your local community or in the online community.  In your neighbourhood,  look at your local bookstores, libraries, writing group meetings, conferences and writing classes to find established critique groups or to seek out interested parties who may be attracted to joining a critique group. Online groups can be found easily through a simple Google search. You can find online writing groups through forums and writing organizations and associations.

There are pros and cons to both in-person and online groups.

In-person groups can be more restrictive in that they meet at a given place and time which may not fit with your busy schedule. However, they provide a personal, intimidate connection with your fellow critiquers something you may not get with an online experience. However, if you require hard deadlines and accountability and in-person group may work for you.

On-line Groups offer flexibility. They provide a flexible schedule for submitting and providing feedback. While this can work for someone with a busy schedule it may not work for the individual who is not self-motivated and finds themselves not meeting deadlines. If you are comfortable with giving and getting feedback online and without seeing the members of your group then online groups maybe the perfect fit.  Of course, with the addition of Google Plus Hangouts you can get a small group online and visible to each other.

Open and closed groups. Critique groups usually fall into two categories, open and closed groups. Open groups meaning that anyone can join regardless of your level of writing experience. Closed groups only invite or accept new members after their work has been reviewed by the group in order to ensure that the group will benefit from the addition of the new member.

Genre-based groups. Consider joining a group that is specific to your genre. If you’re writing a family history, don’t join a fictional group, or a group of mystery or romance writers. Inquire with your local genealogical society to see if they offer a critique group.  If you’re writing a memoir, or life story you may consider seeking out a memoir writers group. It’s important to make sure everyone in the group knows the genre and continues to explore the genre ongoing.

Consider a single critique partner. You don’t necessarily have to join a group. If you’re new to writing consider seeking out a single partner, perhaps a fellow genealogist, or a member of your writing group who may also be interested in exchanging critiques.

Don’t be discouraged if your first group doesn’t work out. Sometimes it can take a few tries to find a group that is the right fit for you and you for it. Don’t give up. You also might find you will outgrow your group.  Don’t be afraid to move on and find a new group.

Make no mistake joining a critique group can be one of the most important things you can do to advance your story and writing skills.