Monday, May 9, 2016

Critique Groups--a guest post from fellow OTP author, Marilyn Meredith

Today, as I recover from Mother's Day weekend at the bakery, I turn the Back Deck Blog over to fellow OTP author, Marilyn Meredith, who writes not one, but TWO, mystery series: The Rocky Bluff P.D. series and the Tempe Crabtree series. Let's see what she has to say about the value of critique groups and learn more about the latest book in her Rocky Bluff P.D. series, "A Crushing Death":

When people ask where I learned how to write, my honest answer is “from my critique group.” I’ve belonged to the same group for nearly 35 years. The members have come and gone as time passed, though the originator is still with us.

I’ve learned more about all aspects of writing than I ever did from any class, book or magazine from the members of this group. They’ve always been my main resource.

Now, I consider the group as my first editor. Our leader, now retired, taught Honors English. She’s taught me more about grammar than I ever learned in school, and always catches those kinds of mistakes. The other members are great for letting me know if what I’ve written makes sense, catching errors in continuity and supplying me with many ideas.

What I’ve learned about critique groups and the people who are in them:

To be in a critique group you need to be able to take criticism and not get your feelings hurt or argue with someone about their critique. As I’ve told those in our group, I wouldn’t come if they didn’t tell me what was wrong. I don’t attend to be told how wonderful everything I write is, because I know it’s not. Even if I don’t agree with what someone has said, I make sure to go over what bothered the person. I might not make the exact change he or she suggested, but I’ll probably do some rewriting to make clearer whatever they didn’t like.

Those who critique shouldn’t make comments like, “I don’t like that kind of fiction.” Each person should pay attention to the person reading and make suggestions that would make the writing better.
Some groups only take people writing in same genre and who are all published. Because I learned so much from the critique group, I’m happy to share what I know with new writers. It might take a new person a while to catch onto how to give a critique, but he or she can always let you know if they understood what you read and if it conveyed what you were trying to get across.

What you want in your group are people who are serious about writing--preferably writers who bring something to read to most meetings.

Anyone had good or bad experiences with critique groups you’d like to share?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

A Crushing Death
A pile of rocks is found on a dead body beneath the condemned pier, a teacher is accused of molesting a student, the new police chief is threatened by someone she once arrested for attacking women, and Detective Milligan’s teenage daughter is has a big problem.

F. M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn Meredith is nearing the number of 40 published books. Besides being an author she is a wife, mother, grandma and great-grandmother. Though the Rocky Bluff she writes about is fictional, she lived for over twenty-years in a similar small beach town. Besides having many law enforcement officers in her family she is counts many as friends. She teaches writing, loves to give presentations to writing and other groups, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, three chapters of Sisters in Crime and on the board of Public Safety Writers Association.

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith
Twitter: MarilynMeredith
Tomorrow you can find me here:


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today. I am tickled to be here.

  2. I am a critique group leader for Inspire Christian Writers (in Sacramento). Our group is very supportive of one another not only with our writing but with our personal lives. Any person who is serious about writing should be in a critique group. New writers especially can learn a great deal, as you did. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

  3. Critique groups are the most important tool I use for my writing. Nice post, Marilyn.

  4. Hi, Elaine. I totally agree with you. Kathleen, my critique group is necessary for me.

  5. I couldn't agree more, Marilyn. I've learned so much from my critique groups. I say groups because I've been involved in many over the years. I'm 99.9% better than I was when I started. I know this because I can spot the same mistakes I used to make in my partners work. I couldn't and wouldn't dream of writing anything without them. Every writer should belong to one. Thanks for sharing.
    Diane Kratz

  6. I agree, Marilyn. Critique groups are critical (pun intended) for every writer who wishes to grow and evolve. I know I'm a better writer now because of my critique groups. The hardest part for newbies is learning how to listen, to take in what the others in the group say, and not defend the work. I always tell newcomers that what problems they see in someone else's work is what they are guilty of committing in their own -- that's why they recognize it! I've found that those who come wanting only to hear how great they are, don't stick around very long. It's hard to put that old ego aside and listen with an open mind, but that's the only way to learn. I teach writing, and I believe that we learn the most from what we share and talk about, not from the the lesson I gave. The lesson is merely the framework on which the learning is built; the learning itself comes from within and from the other students in the group. Education comes from the latin "educate" meaning "to draw out." That's what a good critique group does, it "draws out" the abilities that lie dormant within each of us.

    Oh, and the double "s" in my name is a mistake and I can't figure out how to fix it! Ahhh, technology... LOL

    1. Oh, yes, Susan, we've had many over the years who just couldn't take the criticism and tried to argue with everything that was suggested. As you said, they don't last long.

  7. Thanks for taking over the Back Deck today, Marilyn! You're always a welcome guest!

  8. I haven't used a critique group persay, but I have had several different people read the book specifically looking for spelling errors, grammar, word usage and continuity. I also belong to a writers' group and periodically read excerpts from the books I write. Only two of them have published books, but they do give an honest opinion.

    1. That's what we always want an honest opinion. I also hire an editor for one series before I send it off. With the other, the publisher assigns an editor.