If you follow me on twitter, you know how much I love my critique partners. Rarely a week goes by that I do not feel the need to tweet to the world about how brilliant and helpful they are. Invariably, this brings the response, “You’re so lucky! How did you find them?”
Well, I actually have two wonderful critique groups, this one for historical romances, and another for my contemporary novels. But before I found them, I bounced through several other groups that weren’t a good fit. Along the way, I learned a few things about how to find a good critique group/partner.
5 Keys to Finding a Great Critique Partner:
1)Take an honest look at your own writing.
Before you go looking for a critique group, stop and think honestly about your own writing habits, and what you want to get from this relationship. How much do you really write? You want to have someone who writes about as much as you do. Do you want critique partners who write the same genre? When writing historicals, it’s a big help, because you can share research. And last but not least, think about your steam/gore level. If you’re Penelope Prude, you might have problems critting Steamy Sue’s erotica.
2) Looking Local or Online?
This too is a matter of personal preference. For sheer volume, nothing beats online. There are plenty of Yahoo groups for writers. Many of the online RWA chapters, like Hearts Through History or Kiss of Death, have crit groups. Even if your chapter doesn’t, you can always post a message looking for other members who want to start one.
Local groups, which meet in person, are harder to schedule, but more likely to grow into lifelong friendships. Again, your local RWA Chapter is a great place to start, even if you don’t write romance. Search online for other local writing groups meeting in your area. Libraries and independent bookstores often have bulletin boards where writing groups can post notices. So do colleges, or any other place where you might find a writing class.
3) Don’t Dismiss the Newbie.
You might think that the ideal crit group is full of brilliant, published authors. But published authors are really busy people on tight deadlines. So you want to have some reliable unpubbed’s in your group. People who have time to brainstorm with you and read your revisions. A new writer might not know all the tricks of the trade, but they can tell you what a reader thinks and they may be more honest than your experienced writing friends who know how hard it is to hear that your hero's a jerk.
4) Check the Rules.
Once you’ve found a group you’re interested in, check around for a list of rules. The bigger the group, the more likely you need some. The important thing to look for here is the exchange rate. How many critiques do you have to do before you can submit your own work? Do you decide how often you submit, or is someone else making up a schedule for you? How are the critiques given, in writing or read aloud?
5) Love them, Love their work.
The most important thing about joining a crit group is finding people you can like both as writers and as friends. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, reading thousands of pages they’ve written. I can honestly say that I get a little thrill every time one of my crit partners submits a new chapter or starts a new book. Published or not, they’ll always be my favorite authors. And that’s what makes a great critique group.
I would love to hear your experiences. Where did you find the perfect crit group/partner? And what do you think is the most important factor in forming a great critique group?