How to find a critique group

March 29, 2010 · 7 comments

I recently critiqued several chapters for a writer I met on Twitter. She knew it would be beneficial to join a critique group. But how, she asked, was she supposed to find one?

Lots of writers have blogged about the value of critique groups. (If you’re still not convinced you should join one, read these posts by Ami Spencer, Chip MacGregor, and Kristi Helvig.) But Ami Spencer at Write Out Loud and I wanted to take that discussion one step further. So today we’re collaborating. At Ami’s blog, you’ll find a post about how to create a critique group that works for you. And I’m going to give you hints on how to find those people.

Finding people is one of my specialties; it’s something every reporter has to do well. The challenge with finding a critique group or writers to form one is that they can’t be just any writers — they have to be good ones. Writers who are at least at your level, preferably better and more experienced than you so they’ll help you improve. And I can tell you from personal experience that good writers can be difficult to find.

Here are a few ways and places to look:

Join your local writer’s guild. Search for their Web site. My chapter, the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, has a page on their site that’s dedicated to writing groups. Yours might, too! Do any of the groups look like they’d work for you?

If not, tell them you’re starting your own group. When I first moved back home to write my book, I asked the Guild to post an ad for me, one that described the type of group I was looking to create. I got lots of e-mails from writers hoping to join. Most of those writers weren’t a good fit for me because they were in the beginning stages of learning to write. But at least I made connections and had people to choose from.

Ask at the library or bookstore. Your local library might have a group — ask a librarian. The same goes for bookstores in your area. Large bookstores like Barnes & Noble host groups, and smaller, independently-owned stores sometimes do, too.

Use social media. Facebook is probably the most useful social-media tool for this purpose because you’re likely to be friends with people who live near you. (If you’re not on Facebook, you should be.) Post a status update asking whether anyone knows of a local group. Even if your friends aren’t writers, they might have friends who are in a group. You can also search for groups or fan pages for your writing chapter or any local writer’s organizations. Even if you contacted the writing chapter through their Web site as I suggested above, it’s worth posting on their Facebook wall saying you want to form a group because some writers won’t visit the site but will stumble upon that wall.

This same strategy works on LinkedIn, although I think writer’s organizations are less likely to have a presence there.

Use Twitter, too. (Twitter’s incredibly useful for writers.) Yes, tweet that you’re looking for a group; someone might retweet your note so it makes its way to a writer near you. But you can be even more proactive by searching for tweeps who write in your area. Mashable has a helpful post on ways to find people on Twitter.

Look in online groups. Check out SheWrites, Writer’s Digest and Red Room. They’re not location-specific, but you might find someone who lives in your area. Also browse MeetUp — that’s how I found a French group to join that gets together monthly to practice speaking the language.

Go to a writer’s conference. Perhaps the best way to meet other writers who live in your area is attending a conference or festival. Writers’ Conferences & Centers has a good search tool. Your local writing chapter might have a list on their Web site, too.

Google it. Google is always your friend. Don’t forget to try a variety of search terms. While searching for DC resources — because I’m moving there soon — I found The Writer’s Center. They might be able to point me toward a critique group.

~ I’m focusing here on in-person groups because I think they’re the best kind. But if you still have trouble finding writers, don’t underestimate the value of online critique groups. That’s another post.

How did you find your critique partner or group? Or are you struggling to find one?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebeca March 29, 2010 at 9:36 am

You should also check out Becky Levine’s book The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide
How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback. Here’s what Writers Digest says:

The Writing Group Survival Guide presents the best way to create a respectful, productive critique group, discussing all the important details of finding a group, running a critique meeting, and building a group that will evolve with its members. This comprehensive guide goes beyond the basics, by providing detailed explanations and instructions for doing critiques, as well as benefiting from them. Each chapter, whether discussing plot or character or voice, teaches the writer how to read for a critique, how to learn from criticism, how to organize and prioritize feedback, how to revise based on the specific feedback they receive, and more. Perfect for writers and creative-writing students.

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Alexis Grant March 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

Thanks, Rebeca. And don’t you sometimes pair up critique partners on your blog? (Is that you?)

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jessiecarty March 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm

terrific suggestions and resources! A few other sites are Poets & Writer’s Speakeasy and, for poets, Read Write Poem. I hear The Writer Center in DC is great!

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Heather Rae April 2, 2010 at 10:34 am

Great post, Alexis. This is very helpful. I’m getting to the point in my writing that I’m starting to look for critique partners/groups, and I’m hoping to find some people who are local to me. Thanks!

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redplume April 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Helpful post! Critique groups are so important. The library is good as a direct resource, and can be used to find local writer’s groups specific to the genre in which you write or would like to write. And remember, if you are left bleeding after receiving a critique, you have a choice. Determine if it’s a critiquer having a bad day, or if this group is a mismatch, and find another. You deserve a strong, supportive critque group.

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