Beware the Critical Eye

Most new writers join critique groups, but have you ever wondered if you’re spending too much time in one? Here are some problems that I’ve noticed.

  1. Most critique groups, over time, will morph into social clubs. The authors who join them tend to become friends, and as the months pass, it seems that the authors do less and less writing and critiquing and spend more and more time going to dinner and chatting. My old friend Dr. Jerry Pournelle once pointed out that if you are having a hard time writing, turn off the television, close your email, stop talking to your friends, and then go sit in silence. In an hour or two, your imaginary characters will begin talking, and you can start writing. But a social club tends to short circuit that process. Once we begin chatting, we tend to stop writing.
  2. Many writers, when exposed to a lot of critiques, will find themselves getting frightened and “blocked” when they try to write. I’ve known several writers who have become book critics, who then find it almost impossible to write afterward. Their own inner critic shouts so loudly, they can’t write.
  3. Once you begin critiquing manuscripts on a regular basis, the critic takes over. Really, it is hard to enjoy a book or a movie when your own inner critic is noticing all of the ways that it might be improved. But there is much more that occurs. I have known writers who carry their critiques into every facet of life—so that they are constantly critiquing their spouse, their children, their churches, government officials, neighbors, and so on, to the point that the critic becomes miserable and lonely.
  4. You might become “hypercritical” if you find that you can no longer enjoy even excellent stories, when you look at those that have won literary awards or gained huge popularity and you stand around scratching your head asking, “What in the world?” Seriously, when you notice that something is gaining great buzz, take a close look at it and figure out why. It still might not be a piece of work that engages you, but there is always a reason.

Personally, I believe that anyone who wants to be an artist needs to develop some great literary sensibilities. But just remember, you should be able to pull back once in a while, enjoy your spouse with all of his or her foibles, forgive others of their inadequacies, and keep on enjoying your own writing as you work toward greatness.



I’ll be at FyreCon happening June 21st – 23rd in Layton, Utah, and teaching a Master Class called “Writing A – Z” over twelve hours (9 a.m – 1 p.m. each day):

Explore the writing process step-by-step over three days and see exactly how it is done. Each hour we’ll cover a new step toward completion and beyond.

Hour 1–Brainstorming, “1001 Ideas in an Hour,”
Hour 2–Brainstorming Settings
Hour 3–Create Your Characters
Hour 4–Weaving the Plot

Hour 5–Focus on Writing (Cleaning your palette, creating a writing space, focus)
Hour 6–Drafting Your Opening/Hooking Your Reader
Hour 7–Enchanting Your Reader Image by Image
Hour 8–Adding Complications

Hour 9–Powerful Endings
Hour 10–Editing to Greatness/Working with Editors
Hour 11–Sending it Out, Dealing With Editors and Agents
Hour 12–How to Make a Living as a Writer

You can register or learn more here.

Quick Start Your Writing Career (Live Workshop)

The average writer takes fourteen years from the time that he or she begins to write until the time that they become a bestseller. As a new writer, I wondered if there was a way to shorten that time. I was able to shave off eleven of those years. In this workshop, I’m going to share some strategies that will hopefully save you years of frustration and heartache, so that you can hit the bestseller list quickly. Learn more or register here.

David Farland’s Fantasy Writing Workshop – 1 Spot Left!


YHA Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
August 22-August 28, 2018
Cost: $1099 for the workshop. Lodging, food, and travel are all the student’s responsibility

Join us for our most magical workshop ever! In this workshop, David Farland will be focusing on writing fantasy—building powerful magic systems, cultures, and worlds, creating fantasy characters, plotting fantasy, and writing powerful prose.

Students will need to bring a laptop, an unfettered imagination, and a strong work ethic. Being half-mad would also be a help.

This workshop will last three days longer than most of Dave’s workshops so that you will be able to focus on writing each day but still have some afternoons free to do some sightseeing. We will spend time visiting nearby sites like Stonehenge, The Eagle and Child Pub (where Tolkien and Lewis met with the Inklings writing group), Warwick Castle, Shakespeare’s home, and we will be within easy striking distance of London.

Learn more or register here.

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