What If Your Critique Group Doesn’t Like Your Novel?

It’s time to look for a new group.

I’m serious.

What? You think that sounds a bit childish? A little like “I’m going to take my toys and play somewhere else.” It should, because that’s exactly what it means. Let me explain.

First off, let me clarify what I’m trying to get across by saying - If the majority of your critique group doesn’t care for your novel, you should look for another group. When the group has seven members (apart from yourself), and all seven have issues with your book, then you should probably listen to what they have to say. Having worked with statistics most of my career, I concede that your novel probably hasn’t much of a hope if you can’t interest even one person from a sampling of seven. But if two or three see merit in what you’ve written, then it’s time to move on to a group where the numbers are more in your favor.

This is my rationale. I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot, about how there are hundreds of agents out there and it take’s drive and determination to find the one agent that see’s something special in your work and believes it can be sold to a publisher. All of those other agents either don’t represent that particular genre, don’t feel the work is publishable, or recognize the potential but sense it’s not right for them.

The make-up of the individuals in a critique group is the same way. Some have no interest in the genre you write in, some can’t warm up to the creative voice (style of writing) you choose to use, others are genuinely helpful and offer constructive suggestions, and the rest think you can do no wrong and your crap smells like roses. So why would you make changes to your manuscript based upon the recommendations of people who most of which aren’t 100% behind it?

Maybe an example would better illustrate my point. In the town where I live there’s a local writers organization. I joined the group about six months ago, anxious to have my book critiqued by its members. What I quickly discovered was that 95% of the members were Christian romance writers. I write mystery/thrillers. Although a couple members graciously offered to take a look at my book (though they doubted they could be of much help), none of the others were interested. I didn’t blame them. I’ve critiqued for other authors before and I know how hard it is to look over a story you wouldn’t normally read. Clearly I had come to the wrong place and I would have to search elsewhere for help. I ended up having to find my critiques from the on-line community (except for my wife of course).

Now that was an extreme example, but my core philosophy is still sound. The people you choose to critique your work should be from a diverse group. Some should hate it, some should love it, and some can take it or leave it. That group will make your book better and help it find the agent it deserves. A group made up mostly of doubters will turn your book into something you don’t recognize. Three of the people I’m currently using really like my work, the fourth one believes I should try writing screen-plays instead. But I receive a ton of creative input from all of them! I’m always on the look-out for another eye, so if you’re interested drop me an e-mail.

But if you’re having a hard time finding enough people to be on the positive side, maybe it’s time to start listening to the doubters.

5 comments

  1. Don, I love mystery/thriller books. Not the type written by Stephen King. That, to me, is gore and killer. I am game to critiquing your book if you want. - Cheryl DiFiore

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  2. Ouch. I have seen this happen before. It's a hard thing to admit, but sometimes you've just gotta start over. Or get seven more opinions.

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  3. Everybody has an opinion, and they're all welcome, but finding ones that offer constructive suggestions along with the opinions are hard to find.

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  4. Thank you for being brave enough to say this aloud!

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  5. I'm appreciative of the thanks Suzette, but don't confuse ignorance for bravery.

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