I’ve been asked a number of times how to find a critique group, so I thought I’d list some of the avenues I followed to find a critique group that works for me.
First, you need to have an open mind. A good friend of mine joined a mommies group after she had her first child, and she told me she was going to keep going “until I made one good friend.” I thought that was really smart. Often we join a group and, when it’s not immediately fulfilling, we stop going. My friend kept going until she had one good friend that she continued to see outside the group—mission accomplished.
After that, I think it’s a matter of trying multiple options. Here are some of the things I tried, which eventually led to my current critique group, which is everything I ever dreamed of in a critique group:
Online critique groups: There are many. One free one is Critique Circle, which allows you to critique others and receive feedback on your own work. You can also try places like The Writer’s Chatroom, an online writing community, which hosts author chats, workshops, and also has discussion forums where you can find other writers who are looking for someone to critique their work (I am a moderator on this site. Everyone there is very helpful!)
NaNoWriMo: November is National Novel Writing Month, and the members of www.nanowrimo.org have all committed to writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Once you sign up (it’s free, although donations are accepted and encouraged) you can join your local region and chat online with other people in your area. There are also many live and virtual “meet-ups” during the month—a great way to connect with other writers in your area.
National and regional writing organizations: I joined Sisters in Crime, a mystery-writing group, and the local chapter (Sisters in Crime New England). Sisters in Crime has a online chapter called the Guppies that is dedicated to getting its members published. Critique is a big part of their mission. If you are looking to publish in the mystery genre, I highly recommend them. Other genres have similar groups, so just join the group that fits you best.
Writing Conferences: I have gone to New England Crime Bake for the past few years and I have met many people who inspire me as a writer, but I also met one of my current critique group members there. I recommend volunteering at the conference you go to as it forces you to meet people and interact (especially helpful if you go alone.)
Local bookstores and libraries: Most local bookstores (even the big ones, like Barnes & Noble,) have a bulletin board or a newsletter that tells you if any writing groups meet there. You can also ask the staff if there is a writing group that meets there.
Local coffee shops: Like bookstores and libraries, most coffee shops have a bulletin board. Post something telling writers you are looking to form a critique group, or ask the staff if they know of any writing groups that meet there.
Lastly, keep that open mind and keep trying—all that time and energy seems well-spent once you have a critique group that helps you become a better writer.
Any other ideas for finding a critique group?
Diane MacKinnon: wife, mother, writer, life coach, blogger, family physician. I’m working on my my novel and getting ready for NaNo. On the advice of my critique group, I’m currently going back and outlining my novel-in-progress to make the plotting better (and to make sure I have GMC in every scene!)