Look closely at those two phrases – got “your” back and got “you” back. There’s a disparity caused by the omission of the letter “r”. But losing that one letter makes all the difference in the world.
In a healthy critique group, members have each other’s backs. The focus is on helping each other become better writers. It’s never about one particular member. Sure, everyone gets their time, their feedback, but the group is an encouraging flow of give and take.
A destructive critique group has a “got you back” mentality. There’s a negative attitude pervading the group, one that lasers in on what’s wrong with a person’s writing, what’s wrong with a person’s voice, what’s wrong with a person’s plot, what’s wrong with a person’s character development …
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Here’s the crucial reality: It only takes one person to poison an otherwise healthy critique group and change it from a “got your back” community to a “got you back” hostile environment.
How can you ensure you don’t undermine your crit group? Ask yourself these questions:
- “R” you ready to be critiqued? It’s okay to admit you’re not. If you’re leery of feedback, instead of joining a group, consider finding a critique partner as a first step.
- “R” you willing to listen? There are two aspects to belonging to a crit group: giving and receiving critique. The time to talk is when you are giving someone feedback. When you’re getting feedback? That’s when you sit back and listen. No interrupting. No defending.
- “R” you over-protective of your writing? If you answer yes, then crit groups are going to be tough for you. The only person who is always going to love what you write is your mom. Maybe.
- “R” you willing to consider others more important than yourself? Jesus would be an excellent crit group member. He did not put himself before others. He modeled servanthood. He was compassionate. If you can be like Jesus – not make crit group all about you – then you’ll maintain a “got your back” community.
- “R” you willing to talk out difficulties? Who belongs to crit groups? People. And people make mistakes. They say . . . well, stupid things. They need forgiveness. And you know what? You are one of those people too.
Beth K. Vogt’s debut novel, Wish You Were Here, is slated to be published by Howard Books in May 2012. Her writing buddies, who lured her from nonfiction to the “Dark Side,” affectionately call Beth “The Evil Editor” or TEE. To learn more about Beth, visit her at bethvogt.com.