Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting a GOOD Critique Group

One of the things that can be hard to understand as a writer is getting a good critique. When you're first starting out you may not have let anyone read what you've written or maybe everyone in your family has. Whatever the case, the response is the same: you're going to need objective critique partners. People who can tell you how it is without it being personal. This can be one of the hardest battles EVER!

First of all there's the approach. You coast around the blogs and you see some people that seem pretty cool to you (or join a local group)....do you send that stalker-esque email you've been thinking about, or corner them when the group session is over? Do you go serious or light-hearted? What do you even say? And then there's the dreaded: What do I say if it doesn't work out? If you all are anything like me, these questions have run through your mind often. And then when you get into a critique group there even more questions, the biggest of which is: Am I being sensitive, or are they being a jerk? 

Finding a GOOD critique group can. drive. you. INSANE!

Luckily, the Ink Slingers have been amazing for me and we've found a great rhythm that works for everyone in the group. (Click the badge on the sidebar if you want to visit our group blog) 

When I was looking for a good group I ran through all the blogs and read what other writers said. I did this a couple months ago for a friend and I thought I'd share what I re-discovered in the hope that if any of you are out there looking for a critique group, you'll find what you need. Let's start with some links.

I personally think the best way to get a critique partner/group is to talk to other bloggers (You don't know if you're going to fly or fall, unless you jump.) 
If that's not exactly your style. There's the link below that will send you to Nathan Bransford's blog where in the forums there's a discussion group just for people looking for critique partners. 

To Get Critique Group:

My personal advice for finding a critique group: 
1. Find some people you can laugh with. Heaven knows you're going to write something that sounded good at some point in time and turns out to be ridiculous later. It's much easier if you get an honest critique from a friend, than someone you don't know. It also means a lot more. 
2. Make sure at least one person in your group writes in the same genre as you do. It makes it a lot easier, trust me on this one. If you write mainly YA Fantasy when your critique partners write Adult Fiction, it's going to be harder to accept their critiques because they write at a different level.
3. After a few months, if things "feel" off with the group, don't be afraid to break things off. In the end, your manuscript must come first. It's one thing you need to be selfish on. The wrong group will not help you get where you need to be.
4. Hunt the blogs. A HUGE number of writerly people have their own blog. If you reach out to them (comment), become a follower, see what they post, and read the excerpts they post from their own manuscripts, you can get a feel for how that writer operates. If that person writes in a similar fashion to you, then they'll probably be a good match as a critique partner. If they haven't talked a whole lot about their critique group, or even if they have, you can always ask to see if you could exchange your stuff with theirs. Writers in general are very nice people. They don't bite....usually. 

So, what do you think? Have a critique group? Looking for those special people right now? Have any advice to add? Let me know in the comments!


j.m. neeb said...

I actually never would have thought of using an online critique group before and I wonder how well that works? See, my writing group is hosted by our local library and I like being able to meet in person and read our works out loud.

It's an interesting group, because we span all sorts of demographics. At 32, I'm the youngest. A fellow writer in the group is in her 80's. We have men and women. Writers who are originally from Oregon, Indiana and Wisconsin. Some college-educated, some not. And we all have a wide range of interests and expertise.

It is actually a wonderful collection and our (relative) diversity allows for some amazing insight and factual "catches" with our pieces.

Having a good critique group is a "must" for a writer who is looking to develop and become stronger in the craft. :)

Meredith said...

A critique group you can laugh with is definitely necessary!

Carolyn V said...

I am in 3 crit groups right now and just invited into a 4th. Yikes! But my main crit group is invaluable! I couldn't do it without them!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great advice and fantastic choice of links, Bethany! I think you and the Ink Slingers have been a wonderful fit for each other--I'm so happy you found them. :-)