So, you’re ready to take your writing to the next level. To venture out and share your work, get feedback and improve your craft. Hooking up with the right group is a little like getting married, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into! Here are five things you should know before you join a critique group.
What type of material does the group critique? Look for a group that critiques the same genre that you’re writing. Each genre has its own unique slant. Whether you’re writing for children, mysteries, historical, romance or science fiction. Look for a group that focuses on one genre. You’ll find stronger writers who are more able to give you valuable feedback
When you find a group that is working on your particular genre, ask about the experience of the participants. Have they been meeting for a long time, or are they just getting started? Are any of the members already published writers in the genre you’re trying to break into? You want to find a group that has at least one member with some experience. While a group of writers just getting started can have a lot of enthusiasm, be careful. If there are no experienced or published writers in the group, find out how they are developing craft. Are they bringing in guest speakers or instructors? Attending conferences? Sharing books on craft? If they’re only writing to share within the group, that’s fine. But if your goal is to be publishing, this type of group won’t be what you need.
If genre and experience are a good fit, find out what their method of critique is. Do they submit ahead, or read cold? How often do they meet? Is there a page limit? Are there any critiquing guidelines and if so, what are they? How many members are in the group? Does everyone submit each time, or is there a rotation?
Next, be clear on the commitment level required. If they’re meeting every week, and there are eight members submitting weekly, that’s a lot of time spent critiquing and meeting. Consider your schedule and don’t join a group that requires more commitment than you can manage.
Finally, ask if you can sit in on a critique session. This is the best way to get a feel for the methods and personality of the group. A good critique group is like a living organism. Each member in tune to the others, the whole group working together for each member’s benefit and success. Members should give positive feedback along with suggestions for improvement. Watch and see how critiques are given. Decide if this is a group you can see yourself working well with.
A critique group can be a vital part of improving your writing and achieving publication. Just be smart and look for the right match, before you commit to a long term relationship.
Kelly Hollman is an author, freelance writer, writing instructor, and homeschooling mom. To learn more about critique groups and writing, you can find her at: www.kellyhollman.com.