A well-managed critique group can help writers improve their work in countless ways. Finding such a group can be difficult. Successful groups are often filled, and when a
rare opening occurs, these groups tend to be selective toward allowing new members to join and usually rely upon member referrals exclusively. If you are fortunate enough to win one of these coveted spots, make sure you follow their rules and play nice. It‘s worth it and you‘ll gain valuable feedback on your work and learn more about writing in the process. Most likely, you will also form a few deep and lasting friendships.
If you are not so fortunate, don‘t despair. You can form your own critique group with
like-minded writers and enjoy all of the benefits listed above. Prospective members can be found by placing flyers in bookstores, libraries, and cafes. Ask attendees at writer‘s groups and workshops. Online sites such as Craigslist.com or even Facebook.com may yield people interested in joining your group.
Requesting a short bio from potential members along with a writing sample and clarification of what each expects from a critique group, will allow you to select the best mix of writers for your group and can help the members get to know one another. As always, when dealing with people you don‘t know yet, it would be wise to meet in a public place, such as a bookstore, library, coffee shop, or pub instead of at your home.
Before you invite writers to join your group, you may want to give some thought to the type of critique group you‘d like to have. Successful critique groups come in all shapes and sizes, but you‘ll want yours to reflect your personality.
Will your group have a leader? Some do, although I‘ve never been a member of such a
group. Many are casual, insisting only on regular meeting attendance, others are more
formal with many rules.
Will you meet in person or online, or perhaps develop a mixture of both? One of the
critique groups I was a part of, used a private Yahoo group to exchange our work among our members and then met in person biweekly to give verbal critiques. At another, we exchanged our work at each meeting and met the following week to give both verbal and written critiques. I‘ve not been a part of an online group, but I hear they can work well too.
Do you want your group to be genre specific or more varied? There‘s an upside to each. If you write specifically for one genre, say mystery, you may want to limit your group to
mystery writers who are familiar with the characteristics of successful mystery novels.
How many people will you allow in your group? I‘ve found a group of 3-5 members
works well for me, but I‘ve heard of groups as large as ten. You‘ll want to keep your group small enough that each member is able to receive feedback at every meeting. Yet large enough that you‘ll receive varied opinions.
How often will you meet? Weekly, biweekly, monthly? If you‘re using your critique group for accountability, you may want to meet more often. Since you‘ll need to be prepared to offer something for the group to critique at each meeting.
Do you feel the need for each member to sign a non-disclosure agreement? Although, I
don‘t believe it‘s necessary, some writers may be concerned about putting their work out
there. This may make them more comfortable sharing with a group.
Do you want your members to all be at the same writing level? Maybe you only want to
work with published authors, or will you be open to new writers as well? Although many critique guides suggest writers be at the same level of skill, I‘ve found the views of new writers offer fresh suggestions. Keep in mind, writers are readers, and will still be able to offer valuable feedback even if they don‘t know what Deep Third Person POV is yet. Personally, I like to have varied levels of skill in my own groups.
At which point in the process do you want this group to focus? There are many types of
critique groups. Some meet solely to discuss plot. These groups tend to meet nfrequently
and operate more as a brainstorming session. A writer brings their summarized plot and asks members to help with certain issues, or to point out holes they may have missed. By the way, these are a lot of fun.
Others meet to critique a final draft just before publication or submission to an editor of
a publishing house. These tend to focus more on proofreading and polishing.
Still others work on the first draft discounting punctuation and grammatical errors concentrating more on character development, story arc, and larger elements.
You may even consider forming or joining different critique groups for each stage of the
Now that you have an idea of the type of group you want to join or form, please, pick up a copy of my newest book, Strategic Rewriting, to find out some essential traits that all successful groups share and require each of their members to exhibit.