I liked what Michelle had to say about writers being their own worst critics. It is so true. A good critique can help you determine what is working in your Work-in-Progress so you don’t throw it all out on those days when every word looks like garbage. But there are a lot of other reasons for having not just a writing buddy–but an actual critique group.
The number one reason I can think of for this is that we all have different things we’re good at. Some folks are knowledgeable about writing for a particular genre. Some people have a gift for hearing the words in their heads and taking out the clunky sentences, or rewriting them.
I had one critique group where there was a woman who wrote endless description and who synopsized all of the action in her books, because she was nervous about writing dialogue or action. Although in the beginning, it would have looked to an outsider as though she had nothing to offer to the rest of us who were seasoned writers, a snap judgment like that would have been plain wrong. You see, she was wonderful with grammar. She made us all take out those comma splices and fix up those run on sentences. She made us better while we helped her learn to write dialogue.
Another reason to have a group is to keep up on changes in the industry. This is not as trivial as it seems. I might have heard something at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers about a change in editors at say, Bantam, while you may have seen something on the Internet about a new publisher, that will help us both with our querying. And potentially help us get more published. Critique groups are another, older form of networking that preceded the net.
Another reason I like critique groups is that they help you get past that bump in the road where you write but you don’t actually call yourself a writer. They help your confidence, help you acknowledge that part of yourself.
And sometimes, a critique groups can help you get past writer’s block. There is something about knowing that a bunch of people are going to expect you to show up with eight to ten pages of your WIP, (because a good group will give you a heck of a lot of static for showing up week after week with nothing,) that makes you get writing, even if none of what you’re scribbling down looks good to you right then. And sometimes, more often than seems possible, even when you think you wrote a bunch of crap just so you’d have something to show those guys, it turns out to be better than you thought.
Critique groups can be on-line or they can be in-person. They don’t have to meet every week. But they are invaluable.