To Group, Or Not To Group

That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of other people’s commentary…

And I lost it. I could continue with it, but that would require me digging out my Complete Yale Shakespeare, and power-skimming Hamlet for the relevant monologue that I slaughtered above.


There’s this critique question that pops up every one in a while: Do you have/use a critique group/circle/flock/legion whatever and why?

There’s two answers that I’ve found to this question:

1 – Of course I use critique groups and beta readers and all that. It’s good writing practice because more eyes can pick out what you’ve missed and are too close to see.

2 – Bitch, please.

Soooooo…. everyone knows about the justifications for option 1. And they are valid arguments. Beta readers and proofreaders and critiquers can help you find the plot holes and technical errors that you may not have seen or thought were too GENIUS to be called out. A second pair of eyes indeed.

Number 2 is a lot more interesting.

Apparently, a number of people claiming to be pros (for the sake of argument I’m going to define pros as folks who claim to make a living wage or better solely from their writing) feel that crit groups and betas are over-rated. “You’re writing by committee – it’s no longer your work and that’s a waste of time.”

An interesting argument there.

Another point in number 2’s favor is more security focused – “I’ve had manuscripts stolen and published by contest judges and critiquers. Screw that noise. I’ll write, pay a pro I can hold accountable to edit and publish without a second thought.”

Also a valid point. And one that keeps me up at night wondering about the fate of my manuscripts that various and sundry people have. Dammit. Now I need hot chocolate and blanky.


I’ve kinda taken the “let’s try to find a handful of (hopefully) trustworthy folks to look this over” approach. I like to think this is because I know I’m not so awesome as to be able to say “I’m so awesome I don’t need that” and not because “everybody else seems to be doing it, so I should, too.”

But there are days, like today, in which I’ve seriously considered “screw the pre-read critique. Screw all of you people.” And not for the reasons you think. No, no. Crits hurt – they do. No one wants to hear they aren’t perfect. No one wants to hear they’re inconsistent or need to invest in a full tear-down and rebuild from the foundations up. And  I’ve run into Assholes and Puppies  – we all have.

But the problem I’m facing is that no one seems to be able to give me consistent feedback across the board.

I’m caught between different groups. I’m not certain if this happens often to you, but it seems to occur to me quite frequently. “Well, Katty, we’ve reviewed the manuscript and we can’t agree on a damn thing about your work but we all agree it isn’t ready.” Okay, fair enough. How about ya’ll list out what you think is wrong with it individually and I’ll look for correlation.

Nothing correlates. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

He says I’m keeping him engaged from the beginning and can’t wait to see what happens next, but my tone is too contemporary and American for the fantasy genre. She says my tone is fine, but the structure, pacing and character development needs work. This one says the characters are fine, WTF is her problem but your beginning is slow. That one says this beginning is just fine because if you don’t start here, then I won’t have  reason to give a damn about the characters. But can you make the villain less villainy and more anti-hero?

I suppose it’s a good thing – it does make one pause and consider and weigh the benefits of each potential comment. But to mess things up further, I have beta-readers who’ve said “I’ve nothing to really add to this. I’d buy it as-is.”

Which we’ve all been warned NOT TO TRUST.

But there has to be a point at which you can trust that statement – the question is: From whom?

Yes, I know – Ultimately it’s my story and ultimately I’m the one who says yea or nay, but I can’t help wondering what the hell is going on? Am I dealing with everyone having a conflicting recipe or is there something they all see as a problem, but can’t define?

These really are the days when I wish I could just summon the courage and say “Bitch, please.”



About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
This entry was posted in critique, People, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to To Group, Or Not To Group

  1. doreeweller says:

    Or you could be dealing with an issue I’ve come across. Sometimes people who critique you want to be helpful, so they have to pick out SOMETHING to say. If your feedback is not consistent, I’d say that perhaps it is time to send it off and see what happens. I did contest judging for a short story once, and it was the best experience I ever had from a writer/ critique standpoint. I learned definitively that everyone’s taste is slightly different. Heck, I have a writer friend who criticizes The Hunger Games and Divergent, two titles that I think we can all agree were pretty successful. If people aren’t picking out a consistent problem or error, what you’re probably dealing with is a matter of taste, and it may be more ready than you think.


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