July 13, 2009

If the shoe fits....finding the right critique group

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.


Cuppa Jolie said...

Ah thanks, Jeannine! I'm so glad you liked the article. Seems like you've hit the critique group jackpot...there's nothing better. :)

Jamey Stegmaier said...

Hi, found your blog on Twitter. I've only been a critique group for about a month, and schedules certainly are an issue, but I really value the feedback and support I've gotten.

I'm also starting a web-based company called TypeTribe where you can customize critique groups for any type of writing and get feedback within 48 hours. That way you don't have to worry about schedules or reading other people's work at those times when you really just want some people to read your work right away. The site probably won't result in the close relationships you form through a "real-life" writing group like yours, Jeannine, but writers will be able to submit specific questions to which they want answers and get feedback quicker than waiting for their turn at a critique group. I think the two can coexist. Feel free to check out http://typetribe.com to sign up for the launch e-mail notification if this intrigues you.