Posted by: kimberlysullivan | March 30, 2012

Getting critiqued

At some stage, every aspiring writer has to take the plunge and find readers to critique his or her work. While your mom or best friend may be willing participants, they may not come back with the honest criticism that you really need. Sooner or later, it’s time to find a critique group.

The idea of reading my work aloud in a group setting seemed scary at first. Of course, I’m used to presenting my work in front of large groups of people in my workplace. Years ago, I worked as a television journalist and writing news stories and speaking live on camera never fazed me.

But fiction writing seemed different, somehow. More personal, even if my stories weren’t thinly-veiled autobiographies. Definitely more intimidating. What if people didn’t like what I wrote?

In the end, just like everything in life, a writer has to eventually overcome his fear. Both my critique groups are fantastic. They are honest with their critiques, yet supportive at the same time. They point out inconsistencies, awkwardly-worded sentences and holes in the plot. They see mistakes that I’ve grown too blind to see. And reading that work aloud before others doesn’t seem as scary as it used to, nor does receiving their criticism.

And, how does it feel to have my work torn apart by fellow writers? Honestly, refreshing.

I appreciate the honesty. I appreciate knowing when segments don’t flow for the reader or when the scene that is so crystal-clear in my own mind, simply leaves the reader scratching his head. Fresh eyes see things that I no longer notice. It may be human to grow defensive and think your reader simply doesn’t understand, but when you see reader after reader commenting on problems at the same point of a  story, you’d better start revising. Fast.

 And the more you submit your work for critiques, the more your defensiveness fades away. In another post, I write that it takes a village to write a book . I truly believe that.

If any of you are sitting on the fence about joining a writing group, my advice would be to dive right in. Yes, sharing your work and listening to critiques takes getting used to… but the good news is that it gets easier the longer you do it. Your work is bound to improve and you have the opportunity to help other writers to improve theirs.

And developing a thick skin has to help out as you prepare to submit your work and open yourself up to rejections. At least I hope it does…


  1. Great post, Kimberly. I love our critique group and have learned from my mistakes. The more we get critiqued, the better we write, too. Thanks for being there for me and I look forward to reading more of your work.

  2. I have to agree. A critique group is the best thing you can do for your writing. I’ve learned so many things I would have never discovered on my own, and my writing has only grown. I’ve found that the critiques that will upset me the most/make me the most defensive, are the ones I need to set aside for a few days and then come back to. Normally, they are the ones full of the advice I most need to hear, even if it’s hard! Writer’s definitely have to grow a thick skin! And it does get easier to take the advice as you go along. I hardly bat an eyelash now when someone tells me something really isn’t working. I just assume they are probably correct and go about fixing the problem.

    Great post, Kimberly!

  3. Great comments. Thanks, Melinda and Chantel! I’ve been so lucky to have you critiquing and I think my writing becomes much stronger because of the changes and suggestions you and my other critique group proposes. And I agree, Chantel – it’s definitely a ‘learned skill’ and helps a writer to develop a (necessary) thick skin.

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