How to find critique groups
In my last post, Sandra asked how to find critique groups. So, here’s a quick rundown.
I write for children, so I found my critique group through the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, of which I’m a member. If you write or illustrate for children and you’re not a member of SCBWI, I highly recommend joining. It’s a great group, with fantastic conferences and supportive, friendly members. Writing can be a lonely pasttime and having like-minded people around who you can share with is priceless. SCBWI has regional chapters that have volunteer-run critique groups in various areas. SCBWI also will help people connect with other local writers to form new critique groups.
SCBWI also has an online manuscript critique group in its message boards, where writers can upload their work and whoever’s online can read and offer feedback. The drawback to this approach, rather than an in-person group, is that some writing might not get much feedback, while others could get a lot. I’m not sure why that is, but a couple of the pieces I put up had readers (it shows how many people looked at the page), but not many of them left notes.
If you’re not in a group such as the SCBWI, there are plenty of resources online, but you can also check your local bookstores. Face-to-face crtique groups are often held in bookstores once or twice a month, and they’re often listed in the bookstore’s events. A number of people have shown up to our critique group because they heard about the meeting through the bookstore, not through SCBWI.
A bookstore is always a great place to find local writers. If you can’t find a critique group in your area, you can start one. Ask the bookstore manager if they’d mind you putting up a sign asking local writers if they’d like to join a critique group. (First ask if the manager would mind you holding the group there if you can get it started.) I think most writers are hungry for connections to others who can understand what they’re going through when they write, hungry for people they can bounce ideas off of, share their work with and get support and encouragement on the days inspiration might not be flowing as well as they’d like. Put up a sign at your local bookstore and I’ll bet you’ll have a number of writers respond. It’s also good for networking locally.
As well as the online manuscript critique on the SCBWI message board, the world wide web has lots of other online critique groups. Before I joined SCBWI, I searched Yahoo Groups and found a bunch on children’s writing, even more on fiction writing and even more on just writing. Online, just as in an in-person group, try them out and see if they fit you. If not, move on to another group. From my last post, you want people who are at least as experienced as you but preferably some who are more so you can grow. And you want people who know how to critique, not insult. People tend to be a bit looser online, hiding behind the anonymity of a screenname. But … let me say that again … BUT, only a few people are like that. There are plenty of good online groups out there. So if you find you’re not comfortable with the first one you try, try another one, and another one, until you find a group you’re comfortable with.
Where to find these online groups? I already mentioned Yahoo, but there’s also Google’s groups service. Another option is simply plugging “writer’s critique groups” or just “critique groups” into Google, Ask.com or your other favorite search engine. As well as groups, you’ll find articles on how to start and manage a critique group and how to critique effectively (something you can pass around to members as they join).
Here’s a few pages I found in a Google search. I’m not recommending them, as I haven’t read them thoroughly, but I have skimmed them and they seem like good places to start:
Fiction Factor (for all fiction writers) article on Five Considerations Before Joining a Critique Group. Extends the information in my earlier post.
Underdown.org article on Writer’s Critique Groups and Where to Find Them. At first glance, looks like a comprehensive list with lots of links. Talks about children’s book writing, but could be useful for all writers.
Writing-World.com list of links on Critique Groups and Discussion Groups. Links to articles as well as online groups for horror writers, sci-fi writers, romance writers and everything in between. Plus, links to great sites such as Predators and Editor as well as contests.
Critters Writers Workshop. I hadn’t heard of this group before, but it’s an online community/critique group for sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers, run by the vice president of Science Fiction Writers of America. Membership is required (to the workshop, not SFWA), but it looks like it’s free.
Short Story Group. Online community/critique group for short story and poetry writers.
And, finally, CritiqueGroups.com. Another online community/critique groups site. Membership is required, but it’s free.
Do you know of any others?
If you try any of these, let us know how it goes.