How to Choose a Writing Critique Group

Are you writing in a vacuum? Don’t. Get connected with a face-to-face critique group. 
When I shop for a new pair of hiking boots, I search for comfort, size, and style, and then 
buy the pair that fits. The same search criteria applies to writing groups. Shop around. 
Unpublished and under-published authors who invest time in an appropriate critique 
group will shrink the learning curve, receive valuable feedback, and have a better chance 
of getting published.   
As you search for the group with the perfect fit for you…
** Beware the group that was formed for the benefit of one author’s ego.
** Avoid groups that merely read each other’s work and respond only, 
     “That’s nice.”   You need to know when your plot slows or a character is flat.
** Avoid unfocused groups that don’t stay on topic. 
Successful critique groups include certain elements:
1) Between five and eight members
       A large group is unwieldy and produces more work than each member could 
       effectively critique. A small group runs the risk of having no work to critique.
 
2) Regular meeting dates, times, and places
  Pick a schedule that works for you and make the meetings a calendar priority.
 
3) Motivated authors producing quality work
      Members should be at or about your level of ability. If you get impatient with 
      the other author’s needs, or they can’t sit through your work, find another group. 
  If your goal is to get published, align yourself with a like-minded group.
 
4)  Members who share expertise.
  Authors working in your chosen genre will be the most helpful, but good story 
       elements are universal. Every member should study the markets, new technology, 
       and means of marketing and bring their findings to the group. 
5) Constructive criticism from other authors. 
      Each member must make the commitment to read and critique the other’s work and 
      come to the meetings prepared to offer useful comments in a tactful manner, balancing 
      tough criticisms with compliments. Criticism should be directed toward the work, 
      not the author and not the ideas. If the group allows such attacks, leave. 
6) Members who accept constructive criticism.
      Authors who bristle at the hint of criticism or who continue to make the same obvious 
      mistakes should not be in a critique group. Publishers and the public will be much 
      more unkind. Polish your work in the group, before you submit it. Sit quietly and 
      don’t argue when your work is under scrutiny. Say ‘Thank you’ for all comments.
7) Members who offer motivation and encouragement.
  Successful writing can be infection. Celebrate each author’s accomplishments, and 
      attend their book launches, signings, panel discussions. When your book gets 
      published, your group will support you. 
I didn’t look for a critique group until far too late, after completing my rough draft. I didn’t 
know where to begin to find a group. The only author I knew at the time was Norm Cowie, 
(www.normcowie.com) with whom I played volleyball. He wrote a YA vampire series, 
Fang Face, which my granddaughter enjoys, and exhibits his comedic wit in a series of 
Guy books. 
 
Norm astutely determined my writing needs and introduced me to Southland Scribes. 
The group hadn’t been a good fit for him, but Southland Scribes is just my size.
 
Tell me about your experiences with in-person critique groups. Any horror stories?
 

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