Posted by: Phil Anderson | January 11, 2015

Another Set of Eyes

A few weeks ago, when I was setting goals for this year, I decided to join a critique group. It’s a cooperative arrangement where writers can submit some of their work and other writers comment and make suggestions. I am only a few days in, but I can already see where it will be profitable because, up until now, my only critique group has been my family.

My wife is a professional editor, so that seems like a great connection, and she is a big help and encouragement to me. However, I write fantasy stories and that’s not her favorite genre. Also, after reading and editing manuscripts all day at her job, coming home and working on mine unpaid is not high on the priority list.

I also have four teenage(ish) children who like to read my stories. I’m trying to write for a Young Adult audience, so that seems ideal as well. However, as teenagers they’re not very detailed in their critiques. Comments like “It was boring” or “I liked it” or “I didn’t get that whole middle part” aren’t really specific enough to be constructive.

But why should I take advice from other writers, many of whom are struggling through another draft of their manuscript just like I am? It helps to have someone look at it from another perspective, with another set of eyes. They can see things I don’t notice, because I’m too close to the project.

I’m the writer, so I know what’s happening and what the words are supposed to say. When I read my own work I interpret it through what I intend it to be. Another writer can tell me if what I have written clearly conveys my thoughts.

Also, I have a limited view of the world. We all tend to assume that our experience is universal. I may mention something that I think is perfectly clear, and only find out later that it’s a regional reference and people in other parts of the country don’t get it, the equivalent of an inside joke.

There are any number of other ways that accepting advice from colleagues can be helpful. The old proverb says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

How about you? Do you enjoy cooperation, or would you prefer to work alone? Are you good at taking advice? Join the conversation and leave your comments below.


  1. I always feel better working with other people. My only problem is that if I get too many critiques, I get discouraged and upset and would rather just drop what I’m doing than actually fix it. I guess I wouldn’t be a very good writer… 🙂

    • My critique group orientation made sure to state that the critiques are merely suggestions. I should read and consider them, but whether I take action is entirely up to me. And the point isn’t to gather praise and boost my ego, but to make my writing as good as it can be. It is hard work to write something that rises above mediocrity.

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