Joan He (one of my awesome critique partners) and I wrote this blog post that was on the Savvy Authors blog yesterday.
Tired of writing in a bubble? Want to get out of that slump? Desirous of someone (other than your mom!) telling you how great your book is?
Have no fear–a critique group is here! Or, it will be once you join one.
We learned from personal experience that feedback from friends and family will only take you so far as a writer. F&F can be great beta readers, but your best critique is going to come from other writers.
Places to Meet
Resources on how to find these critiquers is listed below, but first let’s discuss the two most common meeting spaces for critique groups.
1. in person
The advantages to an in-person critique group is that you learn about your critique partners (CPs) more holistically. You know what they look like, you can read body language as you discuss books, you get a better feel for the people. Not to mention, talking shop face-to-face can be more satisfying when you’re not wearing out your fingers as you type away.
As we see it, however, the potential downside is that it can be very hard to provide honest critique when you’re looking the writer in the eyes. While (hopefully) no one’s going to say something nasty to you about your writing, for many people it is difficult to tell you face-to-face just how much work you still need to do.
An online critique group like ours, Scribblers of the Eastern Time Zone, exists entirely via the internet. With members in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, the odds of us meeting in person were slim. We all live in areas at some distance from established writing groups, and we were fortunate to find each other online.
But because we don’t know each other, we are free to be more, well, critical. Not that we wish to hurt each others’ feelings, but we have enough anonymity and separation that we can be a little more direct with our feedback. Writing critique on a computer screen is less daunting than trying to explain problems to a writer’s face. The drawback is when typing a critique, as with any written communication, it is easier to be misunderstood or to come across as harsh. This setup works for us for reasons detailed below.
Searching for your critique partner online offers a wider scope of options. They are everywhere–Twitter, blogs, forums, et cetera. Many writing forums, such as AbsoluteWrite, will have a specific page set aside for connecting you to someone else in search of a critique partner. If not, then there are entire websites dedicated to matching up critique partners. We’ll provide a batch of handy links at the end of the post.
Making sure it’s a good fit
There are questions you can ask yourself and your potential critique partners before you form an official group.
1. What are your writing goals?
Believe it or not, some writers just write for–wait for it–FUN! Their end goals might not be publication, or even to finish a manuscript, but just to talk shop and improve their work. Make sure that you’re on the same page in terms of how serious you are about your writing.
2. What category or genre do you write or enjoy reading?
It’s less important that you share a category (Young Adult, Adult, et cetera) than that you enjoy reading the genre (fantasy, romance, et cetera) that your potential CP is working on. Ideally, you would have plenty of experience already reading the category/genre so that you can provide feedback based on what’s in the marketplace.
3. What is your experience in the publishing industry?
Whether or not you’re at different levels (i.e., one of you hasn’t begun querying agents, another has self-published), what matters is that the more experienced CP is interested in sharing his or her knowledge. It’s no fun for any CP to drag someone else along, or to feel like he or she is being dragged along. Go into this partnership knowing that there will be sharing, in both directions.
4. What is your writing like?
Some might argue that exchanging writing samples should be the first step in the process of finding a CP. We happen to believe that a less-than-excellent writer still has the potential to provide stellar critique, and can become a better writer in the process. Of course, no one wants to have to teach his or her CP how to construct a basic sentence (yikes!), but don’t dismiss a potential partner solely on the basis of his or her writing.
How to best share your work
How old-school are you? Some prefer not to share electronic copies of their writing. That’s their prerogative, though it makes critiquing much more difficult.
The conveniences of electronic sharing cannot be ignored. Here are two of the most frequently used methods of sharing your work:
1. Emailing Word documents as attachments.
2. Sharing via googledocs (which is super-easy if you have a Gmail account). Googledocs’ main benefit is that you can access all the files from the googledrive as long as you have internet access, even if you are working from a different computer. In addition, if you were to lose your work (which we hope will never happen!), you will have it backed up by Google in the drive.
Resources for finding a CP and links
This list of websites is to help you start on your mission to find a Critique Partner and is by no means exhaustive! Often times, the writing blogs you follow will host some sort of CP connection. You could even meet your CP on Twitter.
Ladies Who Critique
Clarissa Taylor’s Author Crit Partner Connect
Nathan Bransford’s Connect with a Critique Partner
Absolute Write (there are many forums for finding a beta or a CP, but here is one of them)
Deborah Kreiser is a literary intern for Inklings Literary Agency, and is currently querying her first completed manuscript, called THREE WISHES. Follow her on Twitter: @deborahkreiser or at her blog: deborahkreiser.wordpress.com.
Joan He is currently querying her second completed manuscript, a YA light scifi called INGENICIDE. Follow her on Twitter: @JoanHe6 or at her blog: thespasticwriter.blogspot.com.