Thursday, July 12, 2007

Online Critiquing Groups: Are They Worth It?

So, I joined this small online critiquing group consisting of 20 women a few weeks ago. I submitted some chapters of my second ms, since I needed some advice and help, as I have queried Harlequin.

All of the responses were very helpful and have helped me learn where my problem spots lie.

However, there are rules (Enter scary music here--Dum, dum, dum) And apparently I've broken them and am now Persona Not Grata within the group.

Here it is: if a person (they're all women) critiques your chapter, you crit one in return and send a "thank you" to the person. Not unreasonable.

Now, granted, I've critted something like 4 chapters, and thanked a few, but not nearly as many as I should have.

I'd had some stuff going on in my life, ie, perfecting my ms, which took up most of my attention for the last two weeks.

I hadn't logged on much until I got an email from the moderator who very nicely reiterated the rules. No prob, I say, sorry, I say, I didn't mean to be greedy, I say (which wasn't my intention).

The problem occurred when I recieved a particularly nasty email from one of the other women on the group. It was long, it was harsh, and it made me cry (but I do that easily, so no biggie.)

I sent out an apology to the group, stating it had never been my intention to take, take, take and not give in return. I informed them I would be working much harder to perform said crits and working on my internet social skills (please keep in mind--as those of you from the retreat know--I have little social skills to begin with).

This post was sent out Monday or Tuesday. Now, keep in mind that 50 percent of the posts are chatty and unrelated to crits (well, maybe like 25%, says the Queen of Exaggeration). However, I recieved only ONE response, and this was from the mediator with whom I'd already spoken with.

This is a women's fiction group, not necessarily one for strictly romance. And I write sexy romance.

I've critted a few and thanked everyone personally, but still: NOTHING.

Is it me or is this just a teensy bit rude? I accepted full culpability for my actions, made no excuses and apologized publically. But they are all ignoring me, except for a select few.

So, are they worth it? Granted, this is my first experience with one. But, have I made a poor decision. I've learned a lot from them and would like to continue, but if they keep treating me like I have cooties, I'm gonna tell 'em to stick it. I don't know, maybe I'm being too sensitive (again, NOT an uncommon occurrance.)


Karen Duvall said...

I don't know what to tell you, Jen. I have an online critique group, but it's small and we've been together for eight years. We have rules, too, and they're easy to follow. Is your group an RWA critique group?

With my group, I've often found myself tied up with work and family things and unable to get crits back in a timely manner (if at all), and they probably get annoyed with me, but no one ever says so. 8^) We forgive each other because life happens to everyone, you know? Our rule is 4 crits per critique period, and that's every 2 weeks. So even if 8 people sub a chapter, each only has to crit 4. More than 4 is just too overwhelming for me, but we have a couple of folks who like to crit everything. They're into it. And they're really good, too.

You could stick with the group you're in, or seek out a smaller one. But at least you feel like you got some help, right? So the process works for you? It's just the group that's a potential problem?

wavybrains said...

There are groups like Karen says who have different rules for Critique--the you critique me-I critique all 20 of you rule might just not work for you. There are other groups to find and seek out. Or hang out on the Charlotte Dillon Critique loop for a while, and try to find a few other writers of sexy romance to form your own group. I know this is what Eli ended up doing.

But, IMHO, you're also letting one bad apple spoil the group for you. You didn't receive 20 nasty emails, you received 1 (the moderator HAS to remind people, so we won't count her)--and it could be the rest of the group is simply used to Miss Nasty or that Mea Culpa apologies get posted frequently--as Karen says, life happens. I wouldn't take it to personally. But if you NEED a different emotional vibe/connection with a group, find a new one!

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Wow Jen, sorry to hear about your on-line crit woes. This sucks.

I've never actually been a part of an on-line crit group so I've not experienced what you've described, but I feel for you. Maybe they'll get over it and start emailing you soon. If not, move on. There are plenty of people in the writing world that would be more forgiving and help you out with crits. Maybe you need a more one on one thing with someone who isn't so dependent on getting a crit back from you right away.

I think if you apologized to everyone like you said you did, and that you promised to be more forthcoming with crit time for others, then they should give you another chance and not blackball you. But remember, you're dealing with women and our species can get bitchy, especially when we decide to gang up on someone.

Hang in there for a bit, see if anyone softens up again, then make your decision.

Anonymous said...

I remember joining a group (non-writing) and was thrown out because they claimed I made an inappropriate post - only I had never posted to the group. They refused to listen so I figured they were too odd to be a part of anyway.

But I've never been particularly happy with critique groups. One person will love my work - another will think it's all wrong. I've learned to stick with a couple of trusted private critique partners rather than groups. But I'm not really a group person anyway.

wavybrains said...

Welcome Kathy! Great to see new faces in the comments! I'm like you--I'm not much of a group person, but I know people who swear by the groups.

Paty Jager said...

When I first joined RWA I joined a critique group. I stuck with it long enough to hook up with the CP I have now. We both were having doubts about some of the other stuff we were critiquing, but liked reading each other's stuff, so we left the big group and became our own little two people critique group. But I also have another CP I e-mail with and a couple of people from our chapter. I've never had a problem getting critiques done, but I don't like having to get a ton done in a certain length of time. So having only a couple who we send stuff back and forth as needed works the best for me.

Jen, you might be better off to go to the Romance Divas site and find a couple of people there who write what you do and are looking for a critique partner. Then you and those people can set your own expectations. Just a thought.

Karen Duvall said...

Paty, that's a great idea about Divas. I used to do drive by critiques there and it was nice little group, good people, no snarky bitches.

LOL, Piper, about our species. Hey, you got that right. And it can be a good source of humor in the appropriate situation. Take the Bitches Review Trashy Novels blog. They're a hoot! And yep, they gang up on books and publishers, but it's all in fun. I think.

Welcome, Kathy! 8^)

Danita Cahill said...


I have a couple of parttime cps. That works for me. I wouldn't do well in a group situation like you're talking about either. I also have pretty thin skin.

I like the advice others gave you about searching out your own critique partners. I used to belong to Chick Lit Writers of the World, an online RWA chapter. I found some CPs there, with voices somewhat similar to mine.

If you join a group, as some of our other chapter members suggested, you'll find like-minded writers who may mesh better with you.

Best of luck!

And here's waving another welcome to you, Kathy, who just moved to the Portland area from Florida. I'm trying to get her to join our chapter.

wavybrains said...


Our meeting is next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Salem Public Library--very easy to find, and we love having new faces. Three of our most entertaining members will be telling us all about Nationals--it should be a very fun, low-key meeting. We'd love to see you there!

Paty Jager said...

Welcome Kathy! And do come join us this coming Tuesday, July 17th! 7PM Salem Public Library, Anderson Room.

Anonymous said...

Okay Jen, here's where you comment back to people and have little conversations about your blog and everyone's comments and stuff. :)

Just giving you some blog social skills training so you don't piss us off and we kick you off the blog. ROFLMAO!!!! (That was just a joke.) (still giggling at how funny I think I am. I mean, geez, someone's got to think I'm funny, so it might as well be me.)

Seriously Jen, hope everyone's comments helped you somehow figure out what to do. Let us know!!! ;)

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Three of our most entertaining members????

Oh, God. No pressure there.

Kathy, welcome from me as well. As one of the "entertaining members" I will assure you the meeting will be low key (and probably pretty funny). We'd love to have you join us.

Jen, I'm sorry you had a bad event happen with your group. It sounds like you've received some great advice though. Listen to these ladies...they're smart.