Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strategies for Choosing a Critique Group


Writing in solitude is like asking the old question, "If a tree falls in the woods..."

If you're writing for publication and no one's proofing your work before you query, well...you're not helping yourself. Joining my critique group was the best thing I've ever done for my writing. Not only are my critique partners my moral support group for the r's and cheering for my successes--they also know how to shore up my shoddy habits, kick me in the butt when I'm not posting enough work, and they can spot a run-on a mile away. Having joined other critique groups that were less successful, I'm sharing the 8 best things I've learned to look for in a critique group.

Choose a group that:

1. Has members with some prior industry experience: published writers, contest winners/finalists, unpublished writers with reputable representation. If nobody in the group has more experience than you, then you won’t be able to learn much.

2. Has members who write in the same genre/subgenre as you. If you write contemporary romance, you’ll want at least one critique partner who writes contemporary romance.

3. Has members who write other genres/subgenres. If you write historical romance, for example, you can learn a lot about tightening from the series romance folks.

4. Offers the kind of critiques that would benefit you the most. For example, if your strength is grammar, you’ll probably want a group that doesn’t focus on line edits, but more on overall feedback, pacing, characterization, etc.

5. Allows you to control the number of critique partners you keep. If the group has an open door policy, you could be gaining/losing more partners than you can keep up with.

6. Requires a 1:1 critique ratio. Give a crit, get a crit.

7. Has active members. If the last chapter posted was two months ago, you shouldn’t expect much productivity on your critiques. Look for members who post regularly.

8. Provides honest feedback, not just a mutual-admiration society. The sandwich method works best for most people: a tough comment, a compliment, and then another tough comment.

Have a critique group tip to share? Please post it below.