Critique Groups

Thank goodness it’s Friday.

As writers we’re often told that critique groups are an invaluable tool.  But, how do you go about finding a group in your region?  And, how do you find a group that is right for you and your work?  Determine what you are looking for and make a list.  Are you looking for a really focused, line by line editing type group?  Are you looking to connect with other local writers to discuss the world of writing and publication?  Know what you want and be willing to try different groups based on your needs.

If you have attended some of the conferences, you might remember seeing sign- ups for local critique groups.  And, that is a great way to find a critique group in your area.  If your brain was overstimulated after hearing the amazing speakers or all you could think about was the critique of the work you submitted, you’re in luck.  We are here to help.

Once you’ve decided what you are looking for in a group, determine whether you are interested in an in person group or an on-line group.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Some things to consider about in person groups: Some groups may meet too frequently or infrequently.  Some groups may have you submit your work once a year, twice a week, or never.  It may be hard for you to hear or give feedback in person.  You might/might not want to leave your house and meet with real life people.  You might/might not want to experience the reactions to your work firsthand.  It might be harder to find a group of local writers in your specialty/genre.

Some things to consider about online groups:  How secure is the work you submit?  It might be easier to find a group that focuses on your specialty/ genre.  You don’t have to leave the house.  Along those lines, you could stay in your pajamas. Writers from all over the world could see and critique your work.  You might get more honest feedback, due to the comfortable distance created by the on-line forum.

If you are interested in joining a new group, here are a few ideas.  If you are a member of a professional writing group, look for the resources they offer.  On the home page of our website, you will see that Zoe Michal zoe.michal@yahoo.com is our critique group coordinator. If you are looking to diversify, try an internet search for writing groups in your county or region.  Look in libraries, bookstores, and local colleges for information about current groups.

If you are looking to form a group, recruit writers from these same places.

What works in a critique group:

Finding a group of like minded creative people can be a wonderful experience.  Some of my best friends are people I met in a writing group.  Experiencing the ups and downs of a writer’s life with other creative people who are happy to support and encourage me has inspired me to be a better writer.  And, I have learned to listen to the suggestions that are offered to me.  Then, I determine which, if any, of those suggestions I am willing/eager to implement.  A critique group can also offer a swift kick in the backside if you don’t stay focused on deadlines and goals.  Lord knows, I’ve needed that.  Also, if you meet at a really good restaurant/ coffee house, there’s food and coffee-enough said.

What doesn’t work:

My group has been fabulous, but sometimes groups just don’t mesh.  The whole group has to be willing to share, read, and work equitably. No attention hogs allowed.   And, it is a lot of work.  All members need to be focused and committed to honing the craft of writing.  Sometimes, it can be difficult to stay true to yourself and your ideas when you are exposed to so many opinions about your writing.  Be willing to try out a group and see if it works for you and be willing to move on if it doesn’t.

Tips for keeping a critique group running smoothly:

  • keep the group manageable (5-10 people)
  • determine a meeting schedule
  • make a schedule for work to be critiqued
  • submit work ahead of time via e-mail
  • bring printed copies for all members
  • use a timer if necessary
  • remember to be positive

Many thanks to Pam Smallcomb, friend and author, for sharing her critique group experiences with me for this post-

In case some of you missed, or would like to revisit, Susan’s post regarding Edie’s critiquing guidelines :https://aseraserburns.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/critiquing-guidelines/

Don’t know what to do with yourself since the pre-conference challenges?  We invite you to participate in a new month long challenge that begins May first.  Stay tuned for more details.  (Hint: Middle Grade Madness)

Happy writing and critiquing to all.

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