A good critique group can be counted among a writer's top ten tools. For some writers, it may take a few tries to get just the right group. Others are fortunate to find a lifelong alliance with their comrades. Critique groups can be online or local. I have a wonderful online buddy who is professional, timely and excellent at identifying the weak spots in my manuscripts. She is honest about the readiness of the manuscript and challenges me when she feels I can write better. Our only face-to-face meeting was our first meeting. We hit it off and have been happily critiquing ever since. I also belong to a local critique group - we met through a SCBWI conference. The joy of a local group is the challenge of a deadline. We meet every six weeks and this demands revised/new material. We also enjoy the interaction of hearing the other comments, which often leads to additional brainstorming. Sprinkle in a lot of good laughs and you have a great critique group. The July/Aug. SCBWI Bulletin included a wonderful article written by Jolie Stekly and Sara W. Easterly comparing critique groups to dating. These authors included some valuable tips:
The SCBWI is a great way to meet other writers who may also be looking for a critique group. Ask at meetings, network or post on the SCBWI boards.
Community classes through the library and community colleges are also a networking opportunity.
Put the word out on Twitter.
Be proactive and dedicated. Finding the right group doesn't always happen immediately.
Be clear about your goals and commitment. Your group will having more staying power if you all have the same expectations. Some groups are more casual - meeting occasionally. Others like to have a firm date. Be honest about your time, experience and needs before joining.
The search can be difficult, but certainly worth the wait when you find a trusted group to share frustrations, have some laughs and challenge you to write better. The road to publication is a long one - we can always use more friends along the way.