Thursday, October 10, 2013

Musings from a Critique Group Drop-Out by Christa Allan

I don’t like critique groups.

Not the idea of them, but the participation in one. I am a lousy critique-er and an equally lousy critique-ee.  In face-to-face groups, when writers read their pages, I find myself drifting in and out of consciousness, hoping my inner child does not start making farting noises, and attempting to translate words that enter my brain sounding like blahblahblahyaddayaddablah.   

These reactions aren’t born of arrogance, boredom or disrespectfulness. My ADD-self is a pitiful aural processor and can’t manage the dual task of listening and critiquing. I learned this about myself in pre-GPS days when people gave me oral directions, and I was lost after the first right turn.

I’ve tried online critique groups, but I found having more than three people providing feedback often confusing, sometimes contradictory, and always overwhelming.  As someone critiquing the writing of
others in the group, I struggled with maintaining continuity with so many different pieces and voices and genres. And, at times, the challenge of keeping up with the group’s expectations of the number of critiques meant not devoting the attention to the piece I would otherwise want to provide.

My oldest daughter was my critique “partner” for my first novel; I volunteered her. She’s a paralegal by profession who can produce reams of legalese when necessary, which means she’s quick to recognize crap and issues like the character having brown eyes on page 67 and blue eyes on page 180.

 I wish she still had the time to participate in chapter-by-chapter email volleyball because she was and is exactly who I need in a critique partner…someone who is relentless, not in shades of bitch or cruel, but in pushing me to be the best writer I can be. 

I have writer-friends who help me with plotting and structure and characters and line edits.  I don’t have someone or some two willing to push, pull and prod me into stronger writing. I’ve been planning a different direction for my writing for quite some time now, and in a few months (praying my husband will soon fire me), will be starting a new project. Having critique partners or a partner would be a bonus. I trust that, like finding a spouse and a great hair stylist, we’ll discover one another along the journey.

Image: Anna-Maria Crum and The Wild Writers

Christa Allan's newest novel, A Test of Faith, will release in March of 2014. You can track her down at is currently being rebuilt), Facebook, and Twitter

She and her husband recently moved to New Orleans with their three neurotic cats. You can find her other novels here.


  1. My biggest issue with critique groups is forgetting to check your ego at the door. In my last one, a member had a melt down and screamed at me. Yes, screamed. Follow by personal verbal assaults. All because I pushed a lock of hair out of my eyes. Seems like I was being disrespectful. Needless to say...

    1. Great point, Betsy. Thank goodness you didn't tuck your hair behind both ears because you might have needed a trip to the ER!

  2. Nice post. I'm glad you show the other side that doesn't always work.
    I'm excited to see the new direction you are going to take.
    But what I most getting from this is that I should be breeding my little critics. I've got two young ones that I will "volunteer" when they get a little older. Brilliant.

    1. Absolutely, Ariella. I'll all for guilting my kids into helping me if necessary! I'm excited about my future projects and looking forward to meeting those characters whose voices swirl around my brain. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Love this, Christa! And I love the new book cover- gorgeous!!

  4. Thanks, Brenda. It's a great cover; I hope the novel inside does it justice!

  5. Christa, your opening is killer - now there's the way to start a post! - and I *love* the cover on your forthcoming book.