Critique groups can be helpful to a writer at any stage in his or her career, to get the writing to the next level.
There are two basic types of critique groups – remote/online and in-person, but how the group is set up and who participates are the keys that make each unique from any other.
Critique groups are composed of writers at various stages in their writing careers. Members of critique groups vary in age, writing and life experiences, and writing interests.
Variables in a critique group include:
- How often to meet – weekly, every other week, monthly
- Day/time to meet – weekday, weeknight, weekend
- Where to meet – someone’s home, book store, library, online (Yahoo group), Skype for real-time discussion
- How long each meeting will be – 1 hour, 2 hours, as long as it takes
- How many members are in the group (4-6 is good)
- How often to submit to each other – if you meet weekly, you have to submit weekly
- Length of submissions – if you have 6 members and each submits 4,000 words each, that’s a lot of critique time
- Will works be read out loud by author or a reader (so author can get a different perspective)
- Will works be submitted to each other electronically? Printed out?
- Will critiques be verbal, written, or both?
- Genres accepted within the group – is it open to all types or writing, or specific to essays or mysteries (for example)
- Will the group be facilitated?
I’ve been part of several crit groups over the years. My favorite one to date was one for short stories. It was open to all genres. It met weekly at a bookstore.
The group democratically (majority rule) selected a prompt to write on. Then we’d spend 20-30 minutes crafting a short story, or the start of something longer. We’d come back together and take turns reading our first drafts out loud, if we wanted to read our piece.
This group was great for learning how to critique since only positive feedback was allowed. It is always possible to find something good to say, and, just like the variety of stories, each participant generally found a unique item in the story that struck a chord.
Critique groups need to share what works in a story and what doesn’t work, and I’ll get more into how to critique in a future post.
For this post I wanted to get you thinking about what it is you want in a critique group so that you can spend time looking for the right fit, or at least the best fit. Compromises might have to be made, but if you have a clear idea of what you need and want from a crit group, you’re off to a good start on finding a group that works for you.
Lisa J. Jackson is an editor, author, book coach, consultant, Big Sister, cat owner, and chocolate lover. She’s addicted to Sudoku, cafés, coffee ice cream, and words. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has a blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to chat with writing professionals on a weekly basis — and you can too! ©Lisa J. Jackson, 2010