Critique Groups - part 2

Last week we chatted about how vital having a writing buddy is, (if you missed it, it's here) but the subject is hardly exhausted.

There’s a lot of critique groups out there.

Face-2-face groups are wonderful. Not only do you make friends who are local, they can be a great source for brainstorming. Having one person's idea sparking something in another and another until there's this massive energy boomeranging around the room is incredibly stimulating and can really break loose new ideas.

The local chapters of national organizations, like RWA and Mystery Writers of America, often sponsor face-2-face groups. Across the country, motivated people have organized independent groups to satisfy their own needs. Here in Seattle, for instance, there’s a face-2-fact group called Writer’s Cramp that specializes in Speculative Fiction. A great group. It's where I cut my writing teeth.

For those who aren’t conveniently located to such groups, the internet is a Godsend.

Not all internet groups are created equal however. I’ve seen dozens of groups that encourage you to post scenes for feedback. I imagine some people have found writing buddies through these groups, because you do get to sample each others’ writing this way, but to my way of thinking, this structure doesn’t feel like it offers much as a long-term strategy. As a means of finding a writing buddy, it feels too hit-or-miss to entice me. (If you have a different experience, please comment and tell me about it.)

Other groups, like OWW or Critique Circle, give you the opportunity to submit stories in their entirety or, if you’re writing book length, chapters. With this format, you have the chance to build relationships and build a following who will give you feedback over time. I like this structure and I’ve made some lasting efriends in this environment.

Some folks who want something different have set up Yahoo groups. These are usually closed groups and members must be approved. The criteria vary from group to group. Some embrace anyone who applies for membership. Others are pickier.

The best I’ve found of this type is a group that provides an environment for dedicated partners. New applicants must submit writing samples and are given a chapter to critique which the members get to see before voting the new member in. Those who vote for the new member are that person’s critique buddies. This creates small groups inside the larger group, like cells in a resistance movement. These groups have a high commitment rate. The upside is this structure could have as many members as it can handle. The downside is that once the members are satisfied with their own little subgroups, they close to new members and they tend to stay that way because the commitment of the member means they have low turnover. (I think this would be relatively easy to organize if someone wanted to, and if you do, let me know. I'd definitely be interested.)

Just this week, I learned that there's another take on critique partners. Paty Jager is the new kid on the block. She's set up a blogsite to play matchmaker for folks looking for critique buddies. If you're interested it's at  It looks like it has possibilities, but I'm not sure if she realizes how much she's biting off. Playing matchmaker isn't something I'd want to be responsible for. My main (and very personal) hesitation is that she's asking participants to give each pairing 3 month before deciding it doesn't work. In my experience it takes a lot less than 3 months to figure it out when it's not working. I'm sure she'll learn as she goes and maybe with some tweaking, she'll find a workable formula. I hope so.

Are you a member of a critique group? How is it structured? Does it do everything for you that you want? Would you recommend your group to others? If your group is open to new members, feel free to plug it below.

Or do you have dedicated critique buddies?

Or are you one of those without a port to call home? Have you looked for a group? How high is your frustration level?


  1. Suzie,

    Blogger won't accept my comment for some reason. I will try getting it to you somehow, and maybe you can put it up for me?


  2. LOL! Typical internet. Can't get your comment to take until you're complaining that it won't take. Gremlins are alive and well in the ether.

  3. I'm with Red Roses and after four critique groups, I'm happy with them.

  4. Hi Suzie,
    I've done the face to face (a few of them), as much as I enjoyed being present and conversing, the critique part was hard for me. I wasn't confident at the time of my feedback to them and theirs to me cut me like a knife (before my tough skin days).
    I joined FanStory for a couple years, strengthened my voice and liked the virtural critique.
    Then I joined an on-line crit group and got a lot out of it, besides being disciplined - so joined another. My genre changed, so I dropped my groups and have readers now. Most especially one reader who has the greatest eye - she's the best thing that's ever happened to my writing.
    Of course as I went through each of these different phases of critiques, they each were the best thing that ever happened to my writing - I believe it's called writing growth. LOL
    Thanks for sharing.