“It’s always darkest before the dawn… this is the Way.”
Choosing a writing critique group may have been one of the most important things I did in my writing process towards becoming published by a traditional publisher.
There were important factors that involved me getting to that point: finding a professional and organized writing society, attending writing conferences and workshops, and finally choosing a critique group that gave substantive feedback.
My Bram Stoker Award-winning novel, Oware Mosaic, went through many, many revisions before it was polished enough to finding a home with a publisher thanks to my critique group.
When I became a critique group director, I learned a few quick tips that I’d like to share to help others find a critique group that can help them polish their writing-in-progress, or if not published, become a published author.
As I previously noted, first, and foremost, search for a good writing club or society. What constitutes a good writing society? Their service to writers is an important start. Find one that provides free workshops or instructional meetings, provides opportunities for meet-and-greets with published authors and literary businesses, and one that attends writing conferences and book fairs, that with a membership, allows free access. If the society or organization is not a non-profit business, and/or charges for everything, beware.
If you live in a small town and there are no writing clubs or societies, fret not. Critique groups are everywhere, including online!
What makes a good critique group? In my humble opinion, it depends on how it’s run. One you find a critique group, try to audit one, or preferably, two of their meetings. While in attendance, watch for how members interact with each other. Are the critiques very generalized or do the members go into structure, plot, characterization, writing style, suggestions for improvement, and even substantive editing tips, as well as, grammatical suggestions? Do they speak with professionalism and respect to the author’s writing or is it very informal?
Personally, being that I taught Language Arts for thirteen years, I prefer the, “Speak what works best first, then SUGGEST what improvements can be made, last.” As opposed to saying all the negative first, and then continue with everything that’s wrong without giving ideas to what can be done, or even worse, giving direct criticism and then telling the writer what they should write. That is not only counter-productive but does not support a safe environment for the writer’s story to reach it’s potential.
Lastly, ask the critique group leader if they have guidelines for giving critiques. If none are provided or have never been thought of, that is a red flag, that the critique group is more of a book club than a critique group that fosters published authors. The same thing applies to online critique groups. The moderator with clear and organized guidelines within a group of writers who all have a passion in your genre will probably work best for you.
Good luck with your search, and if you have any questions regarding critique groups, or want to be the first to get updates and giveaways for my upcoming zombie novel, Lipstick Asylum (where the dead rise), due for release in September 2021 by Omnium Gatherum Media, feel free to email me with the subject heading ZOND-BOND.
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