Today was our May Sisters in Crime meeting with guest speaker Becky Levine. Becky is the author of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions. The Survival Guide was published by Writer’s Digest in January, 2010. (I stole that directly off her website). After the usual forty-five minutes of snacks and socializing, Becky gave a great presentation on the importance of critique groups, segueing into tips on how to critique and how to take critique. She stressed the importance of giving critique as a 'sandwich' (my sister calls this a 'shit sandwich') - start and end your critique with something positive, layering the actual criticism (constructive criticism, mind you) between the praise.
Most of us in attendance agreed that a good critique partner or group is important. Some writers like to submit the first chapter of their first draft for critique, while others prefer to wait until they have a finished first -- or even second -- draft. Personally I like to get a good start on a project before giving it to anyone else to read. It's easy to get derailed by other opinions right off the bat when I'm still getting a handle on characters and plot.
My least favorite type of feedback is when someone tries to mold my story into one they would write instead of trying to help me write the best possible story I want to write. They want to stamp their own style onto my work and this doesn't help me become a better writer. It also pisses me off, which doesn't make for friendly relations.
How do you all feel about critique groups? Do you find them helpful? Or do you create your masterpieces without feedback?