Critique Groups have been top-of-mind here at WriteOnSisters for the last couple weeks. Callie wrote a pro writers group post and Sharon presented the counter opinion. Whether you’re for or against probably depends on your experience. Most writers carry some baggage around when it comes to critique partners and groups. We’ve all been burned before. Finding that perfect match is hard. And if you’ve had a particularly bad breakup that crushed your writer’s heart, it’s scary to put yourself out there again. I understand. That’s why I’ve come up with some questions to ask to help you find a critique partner (or group, if that’s the way you roll) that’s right for you.
Do you want the same thing?
In my experience, different expectations are often why people break up. If your reason for getting together is that you want someone to give you deadlines and encouragement, but your partner wants to give and take tough feedback, you guys won’t be a good match. Talk about this up front. That said, writers may claim they want tough feedback but really don’t. You can find this out the hard way, or try to avoid the tears by first asking…
What’s in their past?
Sure, this might be an awkward conversation, but you need to know! Have they been in critique groups before? Or are they newbies? If the latter, you won’t have much information to go on, but if they’re the former, dig a bit deeper. Why did their past alliances dissolve? Do they speak ill or fondly of former partners? What did they learn from these relationships?
How experienced are they?
There are two ways to acquire this information: asking about their past (like the previous question) and reading their work. I admit I’ve never done this prior to jumping head first into a new critique group, but I might do so in the future. As writers become more experienced, we require more skillful critique partners. A beginner won’t be able to give the high level of feedback a veteran needs. Sure, they could give a reader’s opinion, but then you might as well just get a beta reader.
Do you have stuff in common?
You don’t necessarily have to write the same genre as your critique partners, but it helps. They should at least be respectful and have a basic understanding of the genre you write, and vice versa.
How much time are you all willing to invest?
Some people want to interact with their partners all the time! Some want a little more space. How much contact do you want? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? In person or online? Keep in mind this can change over time.
By asking potential critique partners these questions, you have a better chance of finding the right fit and avoiding the painful drama of a bad match. If you decide to give someone a chance, here is a final tip:
Set a trial period. Don’t get into this thing like you’re all going to be critique partners forever. Give people a safe out if the group doesn’t work for them for whatever reason, no hard feelings.
The right match is out there for you, though it may take a few tries or change over time.
Anyone else have more advice? How do you approach critique partners? Dive in head first? Or proceed with caution?
Next Up from Heather… I blog about Narrators, the kind you find in CODE NAME VERITY and DANGEROUS GIRLS. Go read those books!
For more posts from Heather, click here.