Critique Groups & Question Marks

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

penToday I have some questions for YOU:

  • Are you currently in / have you ever been in a critique group?
  • Was it online or face-to-face?
  • What worked? What didn’t?

I ask because, well… I’m starting a very small local critique group, and I feel a bit like I’m jumping into the deep end before learning how to swim.

Why would I do this? The writing group here in town isn’t a ‘critique’ group per se, and the writing group in the next town is a social club rather than an actual writing group (says so on their Facebook, actually…).

It looked like a case of “if I don’t start this, no one will”. I don’t want to be in charge of something else (and hopefully once this gets going, I won’t be “in charge”, it’ll be a group effort), but I desperately need to progress with my edits and get feedback. I want to be querying in September, at the latest. I’ve put it off for far too long.

But since my only experience with critique groups has been online – and in those cases, as lovely as the people were, the actual ‘critiquing’ didn’t pan out on a regular basis – I’m looking for words of wisdom from people who’ve been a part of critique groups that have worked (or not)!

I’m armed with some general knowledge and a copy of The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide… but what else should I know before this train starts moving?!

This entry was posted on Friday, March 25th, 2011 at 2:28 pm and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 comments so far


Face to face is a bit harder than online I think- mainly because if there is an issue in the group- then no one shows up. Having a regular day to meet is good, and doing only one chapter or two chapters/short stories per session would keep the stress off and leave time for some discussion of elements and the why’s of changing something. Just my thoughts.

March 25th, 2011 at 3:33 pm

What do you write? I write mysteries. I would love to start a critique group with those who write mysteries.

March 25th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I have critique partners online, and I’m also in a writers’ group where we do critique each others work. I love and learn so much from both of them, although the writers’ group is large, and I don’t tend to read for them too often (still learn so much, though).

For a smaller face-to-face critique group, it’s probably best not to have more than five people. More than that, then people don’t get a chance to have their work critiqued or you’re there forever. In the smaller groups like that it worked best to send the work ahead of time, so the people critiquing the work can go through and mark up grammar/spelling and make notes. Then in the actual group, you talk over what you thought, brainstorm ideas, the like.

In the bigger group, our president places a call for readers. We get 5-6 hands raised, and they read their work and we instantly critique it. It’s a bit intimidating for the more shy types, but it does work pretty well otherwise.

Good luck with it!

March 25th, 2011 at 6:06 pm
Susan B

My critique group has been running successfully for several years now. We meet once a month for about 2.5 hours and critique 5-7 pages (double-spaced) of each person’s work. The submissions are sent a week ahead of time so notes can be made and thoughts more clearly articulated during the meeting. Discussions are often lively and spirited! :) Good luck, and I look forward to hearing more (maybe even being part of it?!)

March 25th, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I have been in both face-to-face groups and online groups. I have also started my own. I blogged intensively (for me) on the subject on two occasions:




If you have anymore questions or need someone to bounce ideas off of, please feel free to email me. This is something I know A LOT about. ^_^

March 25th, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I have had various beta readers and critters (online) over the past 2+ years. Now, I have a couple trusted, tried and true critters who really “get” me and offer solid feedback. They’re worth their weight in gold!

March 25th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I belong to two face-to-face critique groups–one is for PBs & children’s stories or poems, & we meet once a month, and one is for MG & YA novels and we meet every two weeks. In each case, our limit is 10 pages, but there are only five of us in each group, so it isn’t overwhelming. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but issues haven’t come up in these groups. Instead, we’ve formed nice friendships and cheer each other on. I think you’ll like belonging to one, and if you are forming it, you’ll find like-minded people. As for meeting in person to online. I did belong to an online group for flash fiction once, and got good feedback, but we were supposed to write to a prompt and I didn’t like some of the prompts.
Good luck with your endeavors. I’ll look forward to hearing how it turns out.

March 25th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

It’s a toughie because I think a lot of what makes a successful critique group is luck – the right people coming together at the right time with the same objectives. I have been part of an online group for over a year now which has been very effective. I tried others that were a complete disaster. A lot of it depends on where the writers are in their journey and how committed they are. I would love to have a face-to-face group and have tried to put one together, but it just didn’t pan out.

Having said all that, kudos to you for trying. You have to keep at it until you find the right group/system that works. When you do, it’s worth its weight in gold! Good luck!

March 25th, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I’m in an online critique group but we aren’t nitpicky and “you should change this so you can get published”. we’re more nitpicky about author voice, character voice, continuity of plot, etc.

March 26th, 2011 at 12:58 am

I actually started writing consistently when I joined a local critique group started by a friend of a friend. Turns out it was one of the best decisions of my life and I *seriously* bless my friend every day for starting it. We meet once a month, face-to-face. My best suggestion is to be selective about the permanent group members. The group dynamic can be such a major factor in whether the group is amazing or a complete disaster.

March 26th, 2011 at 3:42 am

I’ve been in lovely critique groups and awful ones. I would suggesting being clear about rules, how much you can submit, when you expect to have a critique back. I visited several groups – some emailed things, some read them out loud for instant feedback, some passed papers around the table. Good luck!

March 26th, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I’ve only had CPs online so I can’t offer much advice, but I hope it goes well for you!

March 29th, 2011 at 9:21 am

I would love to be part of a face-to-face critique group. I doubt whether there is any near me. I’ve thought about posting something in the library to see if anyone else would be interested. Maybe after the A to Z Challenge in April.

Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

March 30th, 2011 at 2:42 am

I have a post here about all my different types of Critters: http://asiagoans.com/?p=755

And since I started our local group I can tell you that if you start it you are in charge. Forever. Unless by some miracle your critters are more responsible and go-getters than mine. You’ll be the one sending out reminder emails and setting up times/places to meet, and making sure everyone’s on track with getting critiques back to their group members.

We’ve gone through a few different versions in our group. At first we did one scene every other week, but that was too slow and too much time meeting. Then we tried one chapter a month, but it’s still too slow. Then we tried 15k words a month (3-5 chapters), and still too slow. Now we do half-books. Everyone was assigned a month and they have to turn in the first half of their WIP at the beginning of the month. Everyone else has the month to read the half-WIP and write up their critiques, and then we get together at the end of the month and discuss. We’ve got six members, so everyone has their entire book critiqued in a year. We’ve just started this process this year, but it seems to be working much better.

Hope that helped, and if you have any other questions about forming a Crit Group feel free to ask me :)

March 31st, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I don’t have any advice, unfortunately, but good for you for starting a group! Good luck!

April 1st, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Thanks for all the tips, everyone! I’m taking this all into account, and will keep some of you (ie. the ones who volunteered their info) in mind if and when any issues arise in the new group! :)

April 2nd, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I am a part of Christian writing group. We meet once a week. We critique during our meetings and also by emailing each other. The email gets more in-depth critiques b/c there just isn’t enough time in meetings. I recommend you set critique ground rules up front so everyone gives helpful advice, but not hurtful comments. Email me if you would like the email of our leader. She would be glad to talk with you about starting/leading.

April 2nd, 2011 at 8:12 pm

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