Crit Group Matchmaking




It seems that I've had a number of people lately asking me about crit groups. How did I find mine? Do I know of any that have openings? Where would I recommend hooking up with one? Beyond telling people how I found mine (online through a contest), I didn't have many answers.

So I thought I would help the critter-less writers as best I can by doing some research and some matchmaking.
Face to Face Groups
How to find one?
  • To find these you need to google your city and terms like writers group, critique group, etc.
  • Also, whatever your genre is, go to the national organization website (i.e. Romance Writers of America, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and see if they have a local chapter. Your chapter will probably have information on groups that meet in your area.
  • Attend writers' conferences in your area to hook up with other writers and network.
  • Look for ads at local bookstores, coffee shops, etc.
What to expect?
Each group will have its own rules and structure. However, typically members read chapters at home and arrive to the group with comments already prepared. Or, work is read out loud, and critiques are given on the spot.
Online Groups
How to find one?
  • Create your own (more on that later)
  • Network with your blogging friends to see if they know of any
  • Join one of the critique websites/communities: Critique Circle, Critters Workshop, search Yahoo Groups (I have only used Yahoo groups, so if anyone has other suggestions or has experience with an online workshop, please list it in the comments).
  • Volunteer to exchange beta-reading with blogging friends. If you find you connect and enjoy critting and being critted by them, consider putting together a group.
**I would suggest that you only post your work on a site that requires membership and passwords. Don't publish your stuff for free for all the world to see.**
What to expect?

I can only speak from my personal experience. In my group, we are responsible for critting at least one chapter a week (not one per member, just one). We obviously try to do more when we can. We also try to make sure that each member gets at least one crit in return per week). Chapters are posted for download on our yahoo groups page (it's members only so only we can see it) and then we crit in Word (using the comments and review features). Once we're done, we upload the critted chapter for the writer to review.
Things to keep in mind for forming or joining a crit group:
  • Make sure that there are some rules and expectations set up. Lack of structure is not your friend in this type of situation.
  • You need to enjoy the genre that the other members are writing. If you never read horror but you join a group of Stephen King wannabes, you're a) not going to enjoy critting them if you don't like horror b) aren't going to be effective at critting if you don't know anything about the conventions of that genre and c) may not get effective critiques in return if they aren't fans of your genre.
  • Try to find a group that contains writers of varying levels of experience (but not necessarily extreme disparity). Put a group of beginners together and it will be like the blind leading the blind. The other writers don't necessarily need to be published (although it's great if they are), but find some that have studied the craft and already learned from some mistakes. On the other hand, put a newbie with a bunch of established authors, and the newbie will probably be torn to shreds and the experienced writers will tire of reading work that isn't close to being ready.
*One suggestion I have regarding this is have potential members submit samples of their writing to you (if you're starting a group). Gauge what level they are at and if they will fit in your group.
  • Most importantly, make sure you are ready to truly be critiqued. If you are just looking for a group to tell you how awesome you are, don't join. Being critted and critiquing others is HARD. Your hackles will rise the minute you get that document back with red marks all over it. If every time someone says something negative, you start with the "yeah, but" then you're probably not ready.

Hey Baby, what's your sign, er, genre?
Alright, so now for a little matchmaking for those who are out there on their own. If you are someone who is looking for an online crit group, then consider this your today. In the comments section, please put that you are looking for a group and include the genre(s) you write and your email or website link. Once I have a list, I will post those singles looking for a group and you can contact each other.
Also, if any of you have an already established group and are looking for members, then please post that in the comments as well.
As for everyone else, what has been your crit group/beta reading experience? Do you have any sites that I missed? Any more tips to share? What was your reaction the first time you received a tough critique?
**Today's Theme Song**
"On My Own" - Les Miserables Soundtrack
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)