How To Find the Right Critique Group

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“The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.” -Deepak Chopra

Finding the right critique or writing group to click with is a helluva lot like dating. Partners are seemingly everywhere with all the potential for match perfection. Think about it. Much like finding just the right person to share your heart and personal space with, you have to find the right writing group that you can trust to open your heart to and have good enough hearts themselves to be gentle with yours. They’re people who need not only be decent writers who can help guide you and teach you, they need to be people you want to spend time with and who you genuinely enjoy their company.

The beauty of today’s modern world is that options for finding the right group abound, no matter what your schedule is like or where you live. Large or small, in person or online, the possibilities are abundant. But also kind of elusive because you’re looking for a group that gives you the right feels.

What to look for.

Lots of factors can make people click or not with a critique group or partner. We’re going to talk about the two I consider to be the most important.

1. Reason and level

It helps if the group you seek out has the same, or similar, goals- like writing for publication or socialization-so they know what to expect from each other. One of the key reasons for seeking out a writing group (other than improvement) is to act as an impetus for your writing. If you’re just a casual, write-when-the-mood-takes-you writer then you (and your group) might get frustrated, even discouraged if everyone else is on the path to publication.

Similar goals aren’t the only important factor to consider. Ask: What level of writing experience do the members of this group have? If you have years of experience writing and you’re surrounded by newbies constantly, you might be a little frustrated. Unless, of course, you’re looking to be everyone else’s mentor. Look for a good mix of writers at all different stages: a few newer writers, maybe they’ve never been published, those who have been with it for a few years and might have some publications under their belt, and writers who are old pros or technical experts (like former literature or English teachers or professional editors).

 

 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your writing experience?
  • Do you have material to share right now? Or are you looking for a group that will help motivate you through the finish, or help motivate you to get started?
  • Do you have a consistent writing practice or schedule?
  • Where do you want to go as a writer? Why are you interested in the group?
  • What else do you do to meet your writing goals? Do you read blogs (well, clearly you’re here but others) or books on craft? Do you take classes or attend workshops?

Assessing where you are today is important. But knowing what you want and where you want to go, also how you will get there, is more important to finding a good match in the long run.

2. It’s all about the pace, about the pace, no trouble.

Pacing is tricky. I mean, it seems to easy: how often do group members meet up or submit material for review? What’s tricky about it is balancing another time demand as a writer. Not only a time demand  but energy too. The pace of the group should move quick enough that you make progress in your writing and goals. Then again too fast a pace can overwhelm you, too slow can be boring or like others aren’t on your same level. Either one can lead to you, or others, quitting.

When evaluating yourself, don’t get cocky about how much you can realistically produce. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of new people and new input. But it’s not only worrying about how much you can produce, you have to consider how much time it will take you to read others’ work and to give appropriate feedback. To be safe, remember to cut your own estimate of self in half and double your estimate of feedback needs.

Here are a few good questions to consider about production:

  • Consider accurately how much writing you produced this month. Then think about how much you produced the month before that.
  • Settle on spending a minimum of 30 minutes reading on commenting on others’ submissions – possibly more for longer pieces. Don’t forget that you need to consider all of the group members.
  • In-person groups are a little different, pace depends on how often members meet. While you might not have a say in how often the group meets, you do have a say in your schedule and how often you engage with the group.

There should be a balance when working with a writing group. Some people produce more regularly than others, and some people go through brief spurts of creativity. Let’s not forget that life, in it’s infinite screw-with-us, intervenes too. The balance comes in making sure members feel like they are both critiquing and writing equally.

 

So, where are all these groups?

Chances are there are several different writing associations in your area. Many host meet-and-greets, educational workshops, or you can volunteer. Let your chapter know you are looking for a writing group and they will probably know of a few and be able to give you some contacts.

Most associations have online boards where you can look for groups that have listed with the associations.

There is nothing quite like a writing conference or retreat. The energy of the community, no many word nerds in one place, is invigorating. Talk with people, mingle, and chances are you will run across others who are in or wanting to form a writing group.

You can find a thorough list of writing conferences from Shaw Guides. Facebook groups are also good places to find groups. If all else eludes you, Google it.

Meetup is a good option, depending on your genre and area, for finding groups. These groups typically meet in person and are organized by one or more individuals in your area. As a matter of fact I found my local group through Meetup. Just remember to read through the group’s history and expectations. Some groups are social, some are quiet and organized production in a social setting, some have a level of writing production that you might not be able to meet.

Thern there are online critique sites. Don’t worry, most are private so that you are willy nilly haring your work. Online groups most often run on a credits or points system, where credits are used to submit work and earned for giving critiques. A lot of times the credit-based systems also work hand in hand with a queue system where you will have to wait for your work to be critiqued.

 

That’s the down and dirty about how to find a writing or critique group or partner. Tell me, do you use a writing group? Is it online or in person? How did you find the group that fits you?

 

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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How to Balance Between Personality and Brand

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Just be you. Somebody is bound to like it. -BC Brown

 

As writers we walk a fine tightrope over a pit of starving lions. Let’s forget about all the things we know we’re supposed to be – wordsmith, promoter, editor side-show barker – and go onto the things most people don’t think about. People want Professionalism out of authors. People also want sass out of authors. A certain degree of sass seems to imply wit, and fellow authors and readers can’t seem to get enough. But what happens when you’re a writer like me whose sass tends more towards crass?
It’s no secret… I have a foul mouth. I like to push buttons and get reactions from people. My mother will attest, I’ve been this way my whole life. That panache for getting attention (especially with words) makes me a good writer or, at the very least, an entertaining one. I’m also a queen of snark. Biting sarcasm is rarely absent from my verbal repertoire. And when it is… just know that I’m thinking it regardless of what is coming out of my mouth.
Walking a tightrope between being considered sassy and witty and rude and crass, however, is not the easiest task. The circles in my life that ebb and flow from sass to crass are in constant flux, it seems, and I’m forced to check myself before I wreck myself often. Even here, on my blog, I write, read, and re-read what gets posted. Why? Well, to avoid offending. But it’s often that, while trying not to seem unprofessional, my red pen of death slashes through much of my personality – the sassy, often crass, wench (I hope) most people know and love.
What’s a girl to do? Deny thyself and refuse… oh, wait, that’s Shakespeare. OK, so maybe not that, but you get my point. When does sass become crass? Many would agree that a snarky, word-slinging writer is great. Who doesn’t like a sense of humor after all? But there are often times when humor crosses a line into perverse or offensive. [Although the term “offensive” often bothers me. The Dictionary defines it as: 1) to irritate, annoy or anger, 2) to affect disagreeably, 3) to violate or transgress (such as moral law), 4) to hurt or cause pain to, or 5) to cause to fall into sinful ways (in Bibilical terms). – In this sense, everything could be deemed offensive. I choose to smoke so, Biblically, I’m offensive; I bake a pie someone doesn’t like the taste of so I “affect their sense of taste disagreeably”; or I chew with my mouth open so I irritate my niece. It seems everything is offensive based on each person’s individual likes and dislikes, pet peeves and petty annoyances. But that’s enough of this rant for now.]
How is an author who believes they are professional in that they – 1) take their work seriously, 2) obey by the rules of professional behavior like not ripping apart a reviewer who might not have liked their story, 3) hold their work up to the highest standard prior to publication, and 4) constantly try to learn how to better themselves as a writer – supposed to balance their humor with their business manner?
As many can tell, I’ve recently become a more prolific freaking obsessed blogger. I’ve actually come to enjoy it in a way I never thought possible before. Sometimes those blogs are informative about writing. Some are fun things I’ve noticed and how I can tie them back to my writing. Because, face it, that’s what I’m about… the writing. And some are straight up snark. Hell, even those are often tied back to writing but maybe a little looser than other articles. Take interviews, for example.
I no likey-likey interviews. It’s not much of a secret. Why don’t I like them? They’re boring! And if I could make that word any bigger to emphasis it I would. Author interviews consist of the same questions. Every so often an interviewer comes up with something new or unique I haven’t answered before. But, most of the time, the questions are as follows: 1) Tell us about yourself, 2) Tell us about your book, 3) What inspires you, or Why do you write, 4) When did you know you wanted to be a writer, or When did you start writing, 5) Do you have anything coming up you’d like to share. And tah-dah the questions you are always asked in an interview. I know I get bored out of my fricking mind answering the same questions all the time. So much so that I have standardized answers to these questions I keep and tweak when sending back to my interviewers. I’m so bored that I’ve began creating snark responses for these answers. But that’s not fair to the interviewers I think. Especially since my answers don’t inform hopefully entertain but definitely don’t educate their readers as to my books. With a little luck they make people laugh or I’ll take a snicker, I’m not greedy and click over to my blog where they can learn more about me and my books etc. Of course, they may not. People want to be hooked. But don’t readers get sick of my answering the same questions – rinse and repeat? I know I do. The blogs I follow showcase any of the same writers; they all ask those writers the same questions, and I read the same thing. So what do I do? I skip reading on the days those blogs feature interviews. I know, it’s bad of me but I do. Or I only skim them briefly, looking for something that is not boring in them.
But, B.C., you host interviews too!
Yes; yes, I do. From time to time. If you notice, however, I don’t do it often. I hope my questions are somewhat unique. Naturally, I get the dull preliminaries out of the way but I like to move on. Or I try to insert additional wit into the interview (jokes etc) if the author chooses only to answer the basic questions about themselves and their books. What I love though is the author who plays with me. Get your mind out of the gutter! The one who has a humor of their own and has fun with the answers. Those people I don’t mind hosting; they give me and my readers more than perfunctory answers whoring their latest work. Don’t get me wrong, I love to pimp out my friends but I need more generous workers. lol
I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that, even in interviews, it is difficult to walk the line between being a professional and selling yourself and your writing and being who you are – sometimes sass, most often crass, in my case. Teetering between the two can be amusing, is often stressful, and is most likely to get me in big heap o’trouble at some point. Do I care? A little, yeah. But, mostly, naw.

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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