• Kelly J Massey

Support and Critique Groups

I've been a part of several writers' support groups online. They are easy enough to leave or ignore if the environment is hostile or critical without being helpful in any way, but I do thrive in the groups that provide constructive feedback and actively participate within those groups.

A few weeks ago I entered one of our bookstores with my son. He's really into the Magic Treehouse series right now and we're building our collection four books at a time. Anyway, a sign on the door of the bookstore stopped me in my tracks. A writers' group was forming around my genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy and were meeting in the next couple of days. Well, I had to stop in and take a peek since an in-person writing group might be invaluable.

I attended their first meeting and all seemed to be going well enough until an elderly gentleman passed out a short one-page narrative for critique. His story told of a human male who purchased a female android expecting her to please him in all the ways a housewife would do. It was cute and a little comical, but the constructive feedback quickly became negative when one of the members decided to take offense at a story written by a man fifty years her senior. I recognized the gender stereotypes were strong in his piece, but that was also what made it so funny when the android rejected him in favor of the electrical socket. This young woman's critique wasn't offered to make anything about the piece better, it was to shoot it down as she compared it with other science fiction writers she had read who had written about androids and had done it much better without gender stereotypes, thankyouverymuch.

Look, we all have our opinions and we aren't all going to appreciate each other's writings, but you still need to acknowledge the different voices that make up individual writers. If you don't, then you're just as guilty as some of the big name publishers who only want to publish what has been done before and not recognize something new. Look what happens when we recognize something new; how else would we have gotten Star Trek, The Dark Tower series, or Harry Potter?

The point is, if you can't give constructive feedback don't give feedback at all. Lambasting someone because someone else wrote about androids better than they did (in your opinion) isn't going to help them improve at all.

This particular group met again last Wednesday. Did yours truly go? Nope. I had enough of those catty critiques from my college writing courses. They would say just enough to make you feel awful about your writing but not give you anything you could ever really use. Screw those people. Go make your own art.

#writinggroups #support #writeyourowndamnart #constructivecriticism

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