Most professional writers have a critique group. It's so ubiquitous that often they're referred to as CGs. So why does my group of YA writers call ourselves a Writing Group, and not a Critique Group? We're much more than a critique group.
First of all, we are almost as much a Wine Appreciation Group as we are a Writing Group. That has to be admitted. Add to the appreciation list: chocolate, pasty-wrapped foods, and books. But mostly, we appreciate writing. And so, rather than think of ourselves as a critique group (where we appreciate critiquing) we think of ourselves as a Writing Group, and we appreciate writing.
That means our own works-in-progress but it also means keeping an ongoing conversation about what's happening in YA and MG. There are a few things that are special about our group, and I'm going to share them in case you're interested in incorporating some elements into your own Writing Group. (And if you don't have one--and I'll have a separate post on how my group formed and re-formed--you should! SCBWI is the best place to start looking for like-minded Writing Group members.)
Our group holds two annual meetings where we don't critique at all. In one, at the holidays, we do a book exchange. We choose one of our own books (or buy a new on if we can't stand to part with the ones we have) and wrap it, then share it. We spend the meeting talking about the books we recommend to each other, we make lists of books that have a certain emotional feeling, and we often spend time comping titles to the books we're working on. It's a great meeting where we share our love of young adult and of our particular sub-genres in YA.
Our other annual meeting we call Business of Writing. At this meeting, which we usually hold at a restaurant to feel like we're having a business dinner like those people with 9-5 jobs, we talk business. Websites, what's selling, querying for those in query-mode, taxes, and other issues that we face as writers--often relying on information we've learned from reading the SCBWI Insight or from conferences. These have been terrific meetings where we've learned great things from one another.
And at each meeting, we spend a half hour at the start of the meeting talking about the writing process and helping each other through frustrations. We talk about writing. So, we're a Writing Group. We critique, but more importantly, we live the writing life together.
And lastly, we try as a group to attend a writing-weekend--sometimes through SCBWI or through our own means--to practice the craft together with no-critique unless requested. These have been some of the best times we've spent together. We write, then walk and talk out the issues our characters have, then write some more. (And of course, there's wine. And cheese. And chocolate.)
So we write, talk about writing, drink wine, and eat chocolate.
And that's the dream, right?