Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Critique Groups

IMS00173Many writers are looking for someone to make a read-through of their manuscript and offer feedback or constructive criticism.

The problem is, usually, finding someone to do it. Family and friends are frequently not the best choices…either they’re not big readers, don’t read the genre we’re trying to sell, or else they’re not wanting to hurt our feelings and offer genuine feedback.

Fortunately, the online writing community has blossomed. It’s now possible to find writers online to trade critiques with—you read their work, they read yours.

I've posted on critique groups before, but I've recently had a few writers ask how to find them, so I thought I'd run a post again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a crit group, but I do pay attention when they’re mentioned online.

Finding a Group

Clarissa Draper has been particularly good about keeping up with critique groups that are available online for writers. This post mentions quite a few of them. She also helps connect writers with critique partners, personally. Here is a post that explains how and here is where you sign up.

If you’re looking for an in-person group, it’s worth the few minutes to pop over to and type in ‘critique group’ and your location to see if there are groups in your area.

How Groups Usually Work

Usually, with online critique groups, you’re paired with one person or a small group of people who write the same genre. You email each other the work you want critiqued. Each group should operate with its own set of rules, covering how often each member can send in material to be critiqued by the others (it’s no good if one person sends a chapter every day and the others are too busy reading the one person’s work to write), when your critiques of other writers’ work is due, etc.

Other Thoughts on Making a Critique Group Work Well

I found, in the groups I belonged to in the past, that everything worked a little better if I was paired with another mystery writer, or someone who read mysteries.

It’s also good if you’re roughly at the same level of ability (otherwise it’s like playing tennis when you’re poorly matched. You either get killed each time or you’re killing the other person. Not as much fun.)

I’ve found that it’s nice to tell beta readers or crit partners exactly what you’re looking for. Are they supposed to be just looking for typos and grammar problems? Are you looking for global revision suggestions (character problems, plot issues)?

Also, it’s good to be positive. If the person’s book really needs work, there should at least be something there to comment positively on—the concept of the book, an interesting character, a cool setting, etc.

I think it might also be important to know what we’re looking for, ourselves. Are we really ready to hear that our book needs work?

Have you ever used a critique group? Was it online or in-person? How did it work for you?