If writing a good book is important to you, then I am begging you to drop everything and find a critique group now. I have found some great critique groups and writing partners through the years and there is no way I would have finished my book, much less gotten a contract, without them. Before I give you places to find a critique group, I want to tell you what I think makes a GOOD one.
First of all, they should be able to meet on a regular basis. The Middle Grade Mafia meets twice a month at a local cafe, but I’ve been a part of others that only met once a month. You can meet in person, or online, so don’t be concerned if your group isn’t in the same neck of the woods, but you do want people who have the time to meet regularly.
Secondly, they should take writing seriously. When you have something to read, they should be able to listen, and give constructive feedback. By constructive, I mean honest, no BS, even when it hurts, let’s make this shine, analysis. And when one of you is ready to submit, everyone in the group should take the time to really go through your sub with a fine-toothed comb. That may sound like a given, but keep in mind that these people will probably have read your manuscript 27 billion times by the time you’re ready to send it out, and you want people who will happily read it 27 billion and 1 times.
Third, a good critique group has a good leader. My current critique group is led by the awesome Debbie D’Aurelio, and she does a great job of organizing us all. She keeps us on track, sends out reminders, brings contests and book signings to our attention, etc. and in the very rare case that we add someone who doesn’t work out, well, she has to be the bad guy and let them know.
So, where do you find critique partners?
1. Tell the people in your life that you want to form a critique group. That’s how I found my first one – the wife of a friend heard I liked to write, then she invited a client, and voila – my first group. That was many years ago and I now count these folks among my dearest friends. We all wrote different things, but we loved getting together and reading what each other had done. Because I didn’t know them at first, it was terrifying, but it also made me do my very best. Ask around, you might be surprised by how many people in your church, neighborhood, etc. also want to write.
2. Professional associations are a great place to look. I became a member of SCBWI and added my name to the list of people looking for a critique groups. Several months passed before I got an email, but it did eventually come. Now I’m in a fabulous critique group with great people I love hanging out with! Write romances? The RWA has a critique partner match up, too. Science Fiction or Fantasy – then you’ll want to try the SFWA!
3. Don’t have a lot of time in your schedule to meet, or live too far away from the closest group? Try an online group instead. Below are just a few, but a Google search will reveal dozens more.
Ladies Who Critique – “Ladies Who Critique is a critique partner matching site for writers of all levels – published, unpublished, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies.”
Agent Query Connect – Agent Query is a great resource and has a forum just for people looking for critique partners.
Sub It Club – This is a support group for writers and illustrators who are thinking about submitting their work. Writers of any genre are welcome to join the private Facebook group. You can also post and ask if anyone is looking for a critique partner, etc.
There are several critique groups on Google Plus as well.
So, no excuses! Tell everyone you know that you want to start one, join an association, or go online, but whatever you do, get involved in a critique group soon. It’s one of the fastest ways to improve your writing. Plus, you’ll make some awesome friends!