Choosing Trust

A while back, I wound up trapped in a conversation with one of those I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good people. The topic was critique groups, and the woman was basically a stranger.

I know you’re bracing for a horror story.

So, here it is.

Someone she knew stole her title.

I won’t tell you what the title is, but I will say that it churns up nearly a thousand results on Amazon, and it has that vaguely familiar feel to it. It’s one of those deep and meaningful titles you find on literary fiction and questionable poetry. It ain’t Snakes on a Plane.

I’m sure you’ve heard something like this, before. The general idea is that when you take your writing to a critique group, it’s in horrible danger of being stolen, and people lie, and flatter you, and really, how do you know they aren’t just saying what you want to hear to make you happy. Or, you know… ripping into you for shits and giggles.

On the other end of the spectrum is the guy who says you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work. (Eventually.)

I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think the people who criticize my writing are doing it for their own amusement, and I believe that if someone says my work is good, they actually mean it. (Whether or not they’re objective is another thing.)

I post work on my blog from time to time, and even chunks of longer works. I blog my thoughts, and I’m choosing trust every time I push the publish button. I’m not sorry.

But I’m not good at trust, either. I password protect things. I keep my website–and sometimes my writing–a secret from my real-world acquaintances. I think about things like my rough draft being sold in Lebanon without so much as being told. I’m not the jump and trust the Universe to catch you type.

There’s that voice in the back of my mind that says things that are a lot like… I’m telling you this for your own good. And… This probably sucks, you know.

And there’s the real world stuff-the at what point is it published, and how much can I share before it turns the publishing industry off? A lot of that is fuzzy math, but I think I’ve stayed in the clear.

The other thing that occurs to me is that not every writers’ group has to be a deep and deadly serious critique group. I’ve gotten a lot out of groups that were mostly just social, and I’ve found critique partners there.

How far do you trust people with your work? Any hard limits? Any suggestions to avoid those critique group horror stories?


  1. Reply

    Haven’t done much with critique groups myself, but I like to read crits offered by others as it often gives me an insight into how the person thinks. How critique is phrased is also a great insight into a critter’s mindset.

    Critique is a very subjective thing, and one man’s gold is another man’s lead (which can hopefully be turned into gold through amazing writerly alchemy, which I may now term “wrichemy” or something similar). When I’m at the stage of looking for crit partners of my own, I’ll be looking for someone whose writing and knowledge I respect, as well as people who have an understanding of the genres I write for.

  2. Reply

    In my life and my writing I tend to default to trusting everyone about everything. Sure, occasionally I’m disappointed, but mostly I’m not, and it’s a lot less stress and effort to assume people are decent.

    I’ve never been part of a critique group as such, but I have a lovely (and helpful) critique partner and I plan to use beta readers in the near future. I’m more worried about my betas not being that familiar with my genre or worrying about offending me than I am about anyone stealing my work. I figure if we can exchange a few friendly emails without them threatening to come after me with a chainsaw or making mean comments about cats then they’re most likely safe to share my work with.

  3. Reply

    I have my paranoid moments, but I’m mostly trusting of people I share work with in person. It’s either trust them or never go to critique groups, and critique groups are too valuable for me to stop going. But I don’t give strangers copies of my work to keep – that’s my rule. Gotta have SOME protection. The only people who get copies are people I’ve known a long time and are good friends.

  4. Reply

    In working with both an online and in person group, I’ve found that getting to know the writing of those you’re working with helps a lot when it comes to sorting comments. Have they been published, what they do well, and what kinds of books they read for enjoyment. All these things play into what advices they bring and how it relates to your project. Smiling and saying thank you no matter what is always a good practice.

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