Why do we call our writing groups “critique groups”?
Merriam-Webster defines critique as “an act of criticizing” and notes that the origins of the word refer “generally to criticism” or a “remark or comment that expresses disapproval".
Is this the lens through which I want my writing partners to review my drafts? Is this the mindset I should bring when considering the work my fellow writers present to me?
My approach starts with the idea that the reviewer is giving me their work because something needs to be fixed. It’s a fair assumption. The work is unpublished. Agents and/or editors haven’t snapped it up yet – so clearly something is wrong.
With the gusto of Bob the Builder and a frenzied HGTV fix-it zeal, I attack the manuscript.
What are we really asking when we share a manuscript with a group of writing peers?
The answer is less about hunting for “criticism” and more about looking for feedback and suggestions to move the manuscript forward on its path. I want a reviewer to help me find those things in my manuscript that a reader will love. Tell me what I should do more of and help me unleash the unique power of my own creative voice.
Your task is not to leave a fellow writer feeling less enthused and less able to hear their own voice. But, that is exactly what can happen if we are too clued into that word critique.
Approach manuscripts with a build it up mindset rather than a tear it down attitude.
After all, it’s a work in progress. Make sure you are helping it progress!