This blog probably doesn't have enough room for me to count all the ways in which my critique partners are wonderful and amazing, and I absolutely couldn't do what I do without them. Writing obviously doesn't happen in a vacuum and a good critique group is much more than that. They are critique, support system, sounding board, and amazing friends all rolled into one.
Ultimately being part of an effective critique group not just means you get the feedback and perspectives you need, but ultimately you learn more together than you could on your own. My critique group is my tribe. We talk writing, books, feedback, and industry news every day and grow together every step of the way.
But how do you find a critique group to begin with?
Try different things. You never know what happens and usually meet lots of great people along the way.
Here are some suggestions of where to start:
- Check out your local writing organizations (every state usually has one with different local chapters). Don't be afraid of just dipping your toes in and attending different meetings.
- Go to local workshops, conferences. Attending conferences like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference in Colorado was a game changer as was discovering local writing groups through the League of Utah Writers.
- Take classes through local organizations or colleges if you are able to. One of my biggest takeaways from the writing classes I attended was learning how to workshop a manuscript in a constructive manner and work with lots of writers who wrote lots of different things from different perspectives.
- Check out writing websites (many of them have forums to help find beta readers or critique groups). I highly recommend Absolute Write and communities like it. Participate in Twitter chats and begin sharing your work while boosting the signal of others. Start talking to people and see what happens.
And if first you don't succeed... Well, you know the rest. Be sure to try out different groups, different people and see what works. Every writer is different and so are critique groups.
That said, there are some things to consider when you first join or create a critique group:
- What are your goals for this group? Decide on goals, rules and procedures for critiques, regular meetings, what and when to submit, etc. This may seem dry and technical, but it's absolutely crucial to discuss and decide on these things early on.
- What are the needs of each member in the group? In my experience being at roughly the same level in terms of craft can be really helpful when forming a critique group as can writing the same genre or related genres, but again, this depends on your needs and preferences both as individuals and as a group.
- What are your guidelines for critiques? What are your timeframes for critiques? For example my in-person critique group submits work one week and then meets the next to critique, while my online group has a guideline that gives readers two weeks for a full critique. Also, do you critique chapter-by-chapter as you go or full manuscripts? Is there a word count limit on submissions? Usually a ground rule is that only those who give feedback can submit work to get feedback to keep things balanced. Also, how are you marking up work? Digitally via track changes or Google Docs (I really don't recommend the latter for entire manuscripts, btw. As much as I love GoogleDrive, it really struggles with entire manuscripts).
- Make time to revisit your rules and expectations and address issues as a group. This one seems obvious, but it's actually huge when it comes to day-to-day effectiveness and communication within a group and even more so if there are any issues within the group or with a group member.
First and foremost, get yourself out there. The more you talk to others about your writing and your goals, the more you learn and the more amazing people you meet. The writing community is full of so many wonderful people just waiting to talk to you.
As always, cheers and happy writing!