Equal parts cheer and challenge, critique groups offer writers a sense of community and accountability that can improve your craft and motivation. I’ve participated in multiple critique groups over the years and believe the help they’ve provided was (and is) invaluable. Several of my publications are a direct result of group members’ honest assessments of my work.
So how do you find a good critique group?
For someone associated with a university, it may be as easy as sending an email or text to a few colleagues and scheduling a meeting. But, if you’re not tied to academia, consider these tips:
• Check message boards at the local library, Craigslist, Meetup, and local writing centers. If Google fails you, the Association for Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) has a directory of conferences and centers you can search. https://www.awpwriter.org/wcc/directory_conferences_centers
• Attend writing conferences. They are so worth it! You’ll meet a cadre of interesting people who totally get your need to miss the barbeque to rewrite a problematic scene. Bring some business cards (even if they only contain your name and email address). Schmooze. Pass those puppies out. When you get home, send emails and follow the people you just met on social media.
• Speaking of social media, joining writing groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Good Reads, and Twitter may help you find like-minded writers in need of mutual support.
• Consider online critique groups. If you live in a rural area, or don’t have a lot of time to meet in person, online critique groups may be a good option. Lorena Knapp, of TheWriteLife blog, offers the following suggestions: Critique Circle, Review Fuse, Scribophile and Ladies Who Critique.
But, before you commit, decide what you want.
Brook McIntire of Inked Voices says that it’s important to find a group at a similar stage in the writing process and with goals you share. You want to feel challenged and inspired by the feedback you receive, not overwhelmed.
Make sure the frequency of meetings matches your schedule. In order to function properly, groups need serious commitments from all members. This doesn’t mean you can’t cancel if you have an emergency, but be realistic about your availability before you join.
Don’t be afraid to browse. Most healthy groups will allow you to observe at least one session before making a commitment. Pay attention to the kinds of feedback members provide (think similar level, shared direction). Participant comments should point out writers’ strengths and areas for growth in ways that are specific and related to craft.
After you leave, check in with yourself about the experience. Even if you fall in love with everyone, tell them you’ll get back to them after you’ve had a chance to reflect on the meeting. This will give you some additional time to process the experience and make sure it’s a good fit.
Sharing writing with a critique group is a vulnerable act, but it’s the best way to improve as a writer. It’s also a very good way to have your work read. And, isn’t that the point of writing anyway?
For more on critique groups, check out the following posts: https://janefriedman.com/find-the-right-critique-group/