Critique Groups: Find the Right One for You
When I first started writing for publication, I had no idea what a critique group was. When I found out, I debated if I should get involved in one. I did and it was the best thing I could have done to progress in my writing ability.
How do you select a critique group? Here are some suggestions.
1. Find a group that has some members who write in your genre.
Some basics such as grammar, punctuation and sentence structure are common to all genres. However, if you write children’s books, a romance writer can’t really help you with your rhyming picture book as much as someone who writes the same type of material.
2. Try to see that there are published authors in your group.
Not everyone in your group has to be published. Still, it is a good idea to have at least one, preferably more, who are published authors. Without them, it is like the Scripture, “the blind leading the blind.” Someone who is a little farther along in the publication process than those who are just starting benefits the entire group. That does not mean they have all the answers but they can keep you from making “beginner” mistakes.
3. Visit before you join
Each critique group will develop a certain personality. Some want to spend time chatting, others want to get right down to business. You need to find the type that best fits your expectations.
4. Find out what is expected of you before you join.
Most critique groups have a general set of guidelines by which they govern themselves. Ask the leader what the group expects of its members. By doing this, you will know if you can live up to the guidelines BEFORE you become part of the group.
5. Ask the genres in which each member writes.
This is more important for the Christian. You may feel uncomfortable if someone in the group writes material contrary to your belief system and expects you to critique their manuscript. I feel Christians need to be light and salt. It is good if you want to be part of a group in which you can be that. But, if like Lot, your soul would be vexed, try and find a Christian critique group. If time permits, you could join a secular AND a Christian group!
I cannot stress enough the importance of joining a critique group. If they are good, they will shorten the time it takes before you find your name on some article in a magazine or on the cover of a book. Don’t try to go it alone. Let a critique group help you accomplish your goal of becoming the best writer you can be (and a published one!).
-Contributed by Gloria McQueen Stockstill