An Iron-sharpening Adventure

th“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

I thoroughly enjoy the iron sharpening iron aspect of our monthly Picture Book Critique Group meeting. Each of us always brings a fresh and interesting perspective to the manuscripts, perspectives that likely would be shared by many readers. As we’ve built trust and respect for one another, our critiques have become more and more helpful, and we’ve grown as writers and people.

I know that many of us fear our work being harshly criticized instead of productively critiqued. This is often what keeps writers from joining a critique group or keeps them from even sharing their work with trusted friends. But when friends, colleagues, or partners have a shared vision of wanting to make the manuscript better, well, that can lead to a sharper piece of writing—and a sharper writer.

The keys to productive critiquing are trust and humility. Why is having a critique partner(s) important?

  1. No two people think alike, so each critique partner brings a fresh perspective.
  2. Each person has strengths that can balance your weaknesses.
  3. Critique partners often think of plots, words, or directions you’d never think of.
  4. If you’re stuck in an area, your partners can often help you get unstuck.
  5. One or more people can help you brainstorm ideas, problems, plots, words, and more.
  6. Working with each other helps you realize you’re not alone.
  7. Everyone has weaknesses, so you can see be encouraged to grow as well as see your strengths.

Our critique group found each other at a children’s writing seminar. I think that was positively providential! I also have fiction critique partners all over the globe who help me with my grown-up fiction work. So where can you start on your iron sharpening iron adventure?

  1. Ask God to bring someone to partner with you. It’s a lonely road if you don’t have others who will encourage and sharpen you.
  2. Make sure you have a humble and teachable heart. If you’re afraid, ask God to help you.
  3. Start simple. As a friend who reads a lot to give you some feedback.
  4. As you get to know other writers, ask them if they’re involved in a critique group. If not, ask them to join you and create your own.
  5. Ask someone who is strong in areas you are weak (and vice versa).
  6. Be ready to give back; be gentle, helpful, and encouraging as you critique another’s work.
  7. Pay for a professional editor’s critique either at a conference or through someone you know.

Remember that you need to help others as much as you need help. Sharpen each other and your work and you will grow in amazing ways!

Have you been in a critique group? I’d love to hear about it!



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