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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Critiques or Consequences

by Ane Mulligan

+AneMulligan  @AneMulligan

I just taught a class at the ACFW conference called Critiques or Consequences. Yes, I borrowed from an old TV show, but I think it's worth looking at, because if we don't receive critiques, our work may suffer the consequences.

I was a founding member of a crit group called Penwrights. We were a dozen unpublished and un-agented writers. We all worked hard and got published. Some have become bestsellers. Gina Holmes posted a photo on Facebook of our early days. It was at an ACFW conference where a few of our Penwrights received awards in the Genesis contest.

One common misconception about critique groups is they strip away your individual style and voice. That can be circumvented, if you know how. We were all fairly new writers when we started out as critique partners. First of all, most of us didn't even have a voice ... yet. Or if we did, we didn't know it. 

We built trust in one another because we were all serious about getting published. And we all felt we owed God our best, not leftovers. We applied what we learned in writing craft books, went to conferences and took the workshops, and took online classes. We studied under people like Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck of My Book Therapy, taking advantage of their knowledge and mentoring.

Soon ... okay, not that first year but within a couple of years, we were winning awards and contracts. Some of us, me in particular, took longer. We have to factor God's timing into our writing journey. 

Our large group of Penwrights grew to about 20 members. We began to form small critique groups within our larger one. So, how can YOU become a great critique partner?
  • Be honest. 
  • Critique the work, not the author.
  • Give kudos where due, so they know what they're doing right.
  • Tell your CP what needs changing, but don't change it for them. 
  • Offer examples if your CP is struggling with a concept like showing vs telling.
I'll post some more on this in the future and write a bit on the basics for you newer writers. Leave a comment on what area you struggle with and I'll be sure to address it.

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's a novelist, a humor columnist, and playwright. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at her website, Amazon Author page, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.


  1. Excellent, Ane. I'll look forward to your next post on this topic.

    I've been a part of many critique groups over the years, but my most successful partnering came from globbing onto (yes, I imagine she'd give that word a nod) to a writer I met online years ago. And I'm so glad she's still there to point out when something isn't working in a story of mine. In my latest, it wasn't merely something: it was the whole skin of the novella. But returning to the drawing board (remind me never to write a novella again) made for a much stronger story. Go, Jane!

    1. Thanks, Normandie. I'm passionate about having good CPs. I know you're a good CP, too.


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