Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Forming a Critique Group

 When I first envisioned the critique group that is now our Inklings, I had one primary, selfish goal: to finish my novel. But there were other goals, too. My mother loved writing and was good at it.  I wanted to provide her the opportunity to complete something as well. Friends wanted to write and desired a place to grow. Most English teachers choose the major because they love reading and writing. Unfortunately, once you're teaching students your passion, you seldom have time to indulge yourself unless you carefully--selfishly?--carve out time.
I imagined a group where each member could feel safe to nurture creativity and express herself while improving her writing skills and producing finished works.  I wanted a safe, fun, non-judgmental learning environment.  I wanted monthly meetings. As a result, I introduced my idea to a chosen few, and we carefully selected writers to invite. 
Keeping in line with my motivation for completing writing projects, we had only one rule: Don’t show up unless you wrote something.   
Attending a meeting without going through the writing process benefits no one.  The reasons for attending are different.  What you contribute and what you take away are different.  If you aren't writing, why join a writing group? Plus, if you’re not writing each month, then you’re not producing—which was the primary goal for starting the Inklings in the first place. 
I’m proof our rule of writing each meeting works. The prologue of Glamour came from a journal prompt I gave my students.  I didn’t always write with them, but that day I did because I didn’t have anything for the meeting that night. (Since the meeting was held at my home that evening, I couldn't exactly skip it.) I only gave 15-20 minutes of journal time each day, which means I had far less than that because some boys in the back of the classroom were more interested in one of them getting turned down for prom than buckling down and writing. Thus, “She liked to keep their tongues in her pocket” found paper. That night I read the prologue of Glamour. One of the members pointed out I’d finally found my antagonist.
Over the last 10 years, our group has grown and changed. Membership now encompasses several fabulous ladies who have not taught Shakespeare or grammar a day in their lives. Like all great, living things, the Inklings started somewhere.
People join writing groups for many reasons. Perhaps my goals for creating the Inklings aren't the same as yours.  Next week, we'll get down to the nitty-gritty of creating a group. In preparation, answer the following questions:
  • What is your primary goal?
  • What do you want to get out of the group?
  • How much time can you dedicate to writing?
  • How often would you like to meet?
  • Where would you want to meet?
  • How long would the meetings last?
  • What is your ideal meeting? Describe it from beginning to end.


  1. Glad to hear it! You're welcome. Check back next week for more details.

  2. I went several times to a critique group of random people and realized that if I don't trust the source of the feedback it is hard for me to accept the value of the feedback. Great questions to review with our critique group.

  3. You make such a good point, Lisa.

    I've mistakenly attended critique groups which weren't critique groups at all. Such a disappointment.