I was asked to guest post on  Alison Strachan‘s blog, Writing My Truth. The topic was critique groups, finding the right fit. If you’re interested in joining a group, there are many excellent books on how to edit and the most advantageous way to interact with your critique partners–advantageous for everyone involved. To finding the right fit? Well, here’s what I had to say:

So you want to join a critique group. Sure. We all need feedback.

I’m not being glib.

Joining a critique group is a big deal. There are a lot of soon-to-be-writers out there who have decided they don’t want a critique group. For the sake of this blog post, let’s assume you’ve been writing for a few months or years, you’ve honed your heart’s outpouring of awesome on to digital pages that are ready for the harsh light of other authors’ eyes. A critique group is a great way to test your writing without burning out your tried and true fav CPs.

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You’ve done some research and found that you’d rather do something ‘online-y than something in-person-y. Terrific! That’s going to make the next step so much easier because you’ll have more choices. We’ll use this outline form for ease. These don’t have to be separate categories, but give it some thought.

1)      Do you like open groups or closed groups?

  • Open groups can teach you so much. There are many genres and reading/writing types.
  • Closed groups teach you a lot about individual reading (and writing) styles.

2)      Determine your objective.  Different groups have different goals.

  • Wide/small audience? Just for you? Win the Pulitzer?
  • Self publish or trad pub?

3)      Determine your audience. Different groups are different. *wise nodding*

  • Do you write genre or general fiction, memoir, non-fiction or poetry?
  • J.D. Salinger or John Milton? (Write for the popular heart or the literary head.)

OK. So you know what type of group you’re looking for.

Now …To the Web!

We’ll find someone writing what you want to read, and reading what you want to write out there – guaranteed.  It doesn’t have to be popular, but rule 34, 34c, 63, 64 and my personally created rule 65 (which states that if there is a rule previously listed and urbanized on the net, then there’s a grad student writing a thesis on it somewhere) all tell me that there’s another person out there who likes what you like.

Let’s narrow this down further.

1)      If you chose to write genre for genre readers, find a genre group.

  • American Christian Fiction Writers, Science Fiction Fantasy Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Crime Fiction Collective all have diverse writers, some even international. Don’t be scared, just ask or creep on the FAQ for a while. (And in Oz there is a Writer’s Centre in every state, as well as the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, the Australian Horror Writer’s Association, Australian Romance Writers Association and many more…)
  • Many groups are open to all writers. Take a look around!

2)      Find a group and lurk a bit. Don’t get me wrong. Say hello, read some interactions, maybe crit, but learn about the feel of the group while you do.

  1. Small Groups:

i.      Is there a balance of experience and first –timers?

ii.      Are the members successful? Not monetarily, like this:

  • Do they finish their books/poems?
  • Do they get positive reactions from their goal audience?
  • Are members reliably getting their impressions back to authors?

iii.      Do these authors have experience where you want it?

  • In reading your genre or the books similar to what you want to write?
  • In writing in general. Voice is a toughie; it only comes with practice. No website can teach voice like a few rough crit sessions will.

iv.      Do members Balance helpful critique with encouragement?

v.      Are they there shopping for new critique partners or are these members working as a group?

There are large online sites where people crit. Most of them are pay for access.

There are more. Take a look around the net.

3)      Then… You uploaded something! Yay! That’s enormous.

Make sure your group understands what you’re striving for when they start reading, so they can help you achieve that goal.

i.      Don’t just ask “What’s wrong? What needs fixed?” Let them know what you’re looking for in a critique. If you don’t want grammar, but do want flow, say so.

ii.      Ask also: What are my strengths, so I can keep writing to them.

  • Do the critiques you receive make sense? Give it a week. Seriously swallow that first reaction and see how you feel about the opinions in hindsight.

 The end result: find what works for you. Neil Gaiman said:

“Writers groups can be good and they can be bad. Depends on the people in them, and what they’re in them for. On the whole, anything that gets you writing and keeps you writing is a good thing. Anything that stops you writing is a bad thing. If you find your writers group stopping you from writing, then drop it. ”

Find what works for you. Find the right fit.