Starting Your Own Critique Group
While RYS members have many opportunities to get excellent writing advice at a reasonable cost, there’s another path to consider when looking for regular and affordable feedback on your stories: joining a local critique group! The cost will primarily be your time, your creative energy, and gas money. The potential professional development? Priceless.
So, just what is a critique group? It’s a regularly scheduled meet-up of fellow writers who are willing to read one another’s work and give constructive feedback with the goal of improving everyone’s writing skills. Meetings can be as frequent as weekly or as infrequent as monthly. Venues can range from private homes to public spaces such as libraries, coffee houses, community centers, restaurants and bookstores. Critique groups can be as small as 3 members, or as large as 15---I’ve been in groups at both ends of the spectrum over the years. The one thing that all these groups have had in common is a COMMITMENT to attend regularly, and to work with a positive spirit toward a common goal of improving everyone’s craft.
Said differently, critique group members commit to showing up for one another, literally and figuratively.
How can you find out if there are any critique groups already up and running in your community? First, reach out to your local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers (www.scbwi.org). Or maybe try an internet search for ‘writing groups near me’ and see what comes up. Have a college in your town? Maybe someone on the creative writing faculty will know of a group open to members in your area. Ask a librarian, or bookstore staffers, or English teacher for any information they might have on the subject. A little sleuthing just might get you a spot in a critique group.
Find a group or two? Great! The most efficient and successful critique groups are made up of writers who are working roughly in the same genre (for me, ‘kidlit’ only) and at approximately the same skill level. So, before applying for membership, ask what types of manuscripts members bring. Are members published or pre-published? Are they accepting new members now or have a wait list? Do they want a submission of sample work before applying? And so on.
If you can’t find a group already in existence in your area, you may opt to start one. You can check out the many how-to articles on the internet, of course---but if you prefer to have all the basics in a single resource on your office shelf, I can’t think of a better one than How to Start and Run a Writers’ Critique Group by Carol J. Amato. Some writers have had good results from an online critique group---but my preference remains with a ‘live’ group where eye contact and brainstorming together is easiest.
The critique group, to my way of thinking, is putting yourself in a creative lifeboat, with your crew aboard to help you navigate the stormy seas of idea development, story revision, submission tactics, and eventually…the high tide of publication. I highly recommend it!
Dianne Ochiltree has been writing stories and poems since she was a kid growing up in Ohio.
As a Children’s Author, Dianne has loved every minute of her creative life. She has had numerous books published for young readers, from toddlers to teens. Her enthusiasm for reading and creative writing is contagious! Dianne encourages young readers to become young writers in author visits to schools and libraries.
As a Writing Coach, Dianne works as a freelance editor, writing & publishing coach for aspiring children’s writers. Dianne and her husband, Jim, currently live in sunny Sarasota, Florida, with their pets: a Maine coon cat called Simon, and Sally, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, who not only entertains and inspires her owners, but also accompanies Dianne on visits to schools and nursing homes as a certified therapy dog.