The Critique Group from Hell

12 May

Never again shall I eagerly join a novel critique group and assume this is the group for me.

In March, I joined a novel critique group I discovered online. The first time I received feedback on my manuscript—a painful manuscript to revisit at the best of times—the feedback triggered some anxiety. The second time, I felt humiliated during the meeting, and the feedback triggered a great deal of depression and anxiety. It has taken me a little time to process, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the group is dominated by people who aren’t even worthy of my presence, let alone worthy of giving me developmental feedback on novels. This isn’t arrogance on my part. This is realism.

The human race frequently reminds me that the vast majority are shallow, petty, mean, and immature. People like that, who get together and gang up on someone they perceive as weak (in other words, someone who’s sensitive and not shallow), are the vast majority. Bullies are the vast majority. People who gang up on underdogs are the majority. They sit quietly or join in while sociopaths throw stones at their scapegoats. I’m sure polar bears and snow leopards would agree with me on this score: the world would be better off if the human race died out.

In future, when I come across a critique group, I’ll bear this in mind and not assume anything until I’ve met the members and have received feedback from them. And I’ll make sure that the first manuscript I share is less painful than this one.

This critique group is dominated by tactless, insensitive, un-empathetic, and shallow vultures who swooped down and tried to tear me apart. I acknowledge that they probably weren’t acting with consciously malicious intent. However, at least on a subconscious level, they knew this novel was a sensitive topic and couldn’t resist attacking.

If you find a critique group online, there’s a likely possibility that you will have personality clashes. It’s likely that the group simply won’t suit you. In the past, I’ve joined groups that got together by word of mouth. A friend explained to me that the last time she was in a critique group, they were already friends. That’s certainly more ideal. The problem I’ve had with word-of-mouth groups in the past is that it was like herding cats and once one or two people said, “I don’t have time for this group” or left town, the group dispersed. In two groups, I was one of only two people who wanted to continue meeting up.

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