Friday, April 8, 2016

Hunting Guide: Critique Groups, Where to Find and Bag Them

Critique partners (or groups) are like agents: good ones are worth their weight in gold. Bad ones are worse than not having one at all. By a long shot. But you've heard that all week long, right? So the question is: How do you find the mythical beast? The unicorn that is a good critique group? You have a few options.
  1. Meet Up - install the app and the search for writing groups. Chances are excellent that you'll find a number of writing groups meeting near you. Read through their descriptions and go check out a few. You get a 30 day trial before you have to commit to paying for anything. And you can try out several groups - go, talk to people, listen to what they're writing. Listen to HOW they talk to one another about writing. CAUTION: I did have a Meet Up writing group near me, but the group was more interesting in cheerleading than in making something better and they read snippets of work that were far too short to allow anyone to really work on story craft. So for my money, it wasn't a bad group, it just wasn't pointed in the direction I was going. Have an idea of what you're looking for when you go in.
  2. Your local library - chances are excellent that there's a local writers organization partnered with your neighborhood library. There may not be published critique meetings, but there are likely to be events like book signings that would allow you to begin talking to the writers and find out how to join the group. From there, you begin asking around about critique groups.
  3. Cons - Attending conventions aimed at what you write gives you access to people writing the same-ish genre. You'll find all kinds of organizations aimed at you. (Norwescon, my local scifi/fantasy con almost always has Broad Universe - the women in scifi - reps offering up membership info.) There are also a ton of writers and aspiring writers of every type there. Talk to them. Ask about critique groups. You never know.
  4. Writing Org Membership - Finding crit groups has been the greatest boon granted to me by RWA. My local chapter gave me my local critique group. My online chapter gave me the excellent critique partners I rely on as beta readers. It came from going to meetings, getting to know people, getting to know what they wrote and talking about wanting a critique group.
There are likely more ways to find critique partners and beta readers, but allow me to trot out an adage: You are the average of the five people you spend  the most time with. Meaning you can pick a critique group that will either lift you up or drag you down. The choice is yours. When you do get invited to a critique group, date! Don't commit straight off. Go to a meeting. Listen to how these people critique one another. Is the crit constructive? If problems are identified in a piece of work, are suggestions for fixes given? Are the crits voice appropriate to each author and piece of work? Does your critique style mesh? Don't be afraid to go through several groups before finding the right fit. I'm on groups five and six. Some didn't work very well, some I moved away, some everyone else moved away. The point is that you don't have to jump at the first thing to come along unless you're confident that you will become a better writer for joining. That, after all, is the point - to grow and to help your critique partners to do the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment