So, you’re writing. Your fingers are flying over your keyboard. The words are flowing. And you want to grow as a writer, really work on your craft, learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, and find a core group of supportive writers. Now what?
You need a critique group! You want writing friends invested in your stories, who want to ready your pages, dive into the worlds you’re creating, share their thoughts and advice and constructive criticism, and be there for you on this difficult road to publication and beyond. But how do you find these magical people? Do you scribble, “Will write and critique for thrilling conversation about plot lines and character development!” on cardboard and sit near Walmart hoping the right people find you?
Well, there might be some better ways.
#1: Trial and Error.
You know that saying, “You have to kiss a lot of toads to find your prince.” Well, the same theory can also apply to finding a critique group. Sometimes you have to try out quite a few groups before you find the one that fits.
“To get in with my first one I was matched up by a fellow author and we added a few others from there. I eventually did leave that one since we were no longer a good fit for each other. I was invited into my current writing group during a book launch I was featured in. We meet through google hangouts and it’s been really great so far.” –Judy Corry
“I met my first group at a writing conference. We happened to sit at the same table for lunch. We were super eclectic, but all near the beginning stages. Our first mtg there were 9 or so, but in the end it whittled down to a solid 5 of us. We disbanded a few years ago due to scheduling, but I am forever grateful to that group.
I’m now no longer with a group, but have a circle of writers I exchange with that I could not live without. They are solid, vary in style, and I couldn’t be the writer I am without them.” –Natalee Clark Cookpe
#2: Tell friends you’re looking.
Don’t be shy. When people ask what you’re up to, tell them you’re writing and that you’re trying to find a critique group. You never know if they’re doing the same thing! Or maybe they have a friend in the same boat.
“A friend and I were in charge of planning a Boy Scout sleep over. I asked her what she did for work. When she told me she had done some writing, I told her about my writing. Then I suggested we start a writing group. There’s now three of us and we’ve been meeting since 2002.” –Linda Rose Zajac
“I know this amazing group of women . . . Really, it started bc I asked Tasha Seegmiller if she wrote, or wanted to, and we started meeting. I asked Joy and Elaine the same thing. That was 6+ years ago.” –Rosalyn Eves
#3: Get the word out on-line.
Post on Instagram and Facebook that you’re searching for a group. Tweet about it. Find other writers in Facebook writing groups like Storymakers.
“I entered a contest and posted a blanket ‘want to meet up and refine entries together?’ Tweet with contest hashtag. We’ve been together over 2 years now. Half agented and half not—several have book deals, releases, etc. we’re growing up together in the writing world and it’s one of my favorite friend sources too.” –Aften Brook Syzmanski
“About 15 years ago, I posted a request on the SCBWI boards looking for writers who were interested in a weekly critique group for writers of fantasy and science fiction for kids and teens. That’s how FantasyWeavers was born.
I moderated for about nine years and then handed the reins over to another member who had been there from the start. The start was rocky, but we used the rules from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft (respect what the writer is trying to accomplish, respect that critiquers are only trying to help you accomplish it) and ousted a couple of troublemakers. Things ran smoothly after that, although we did have to add an additional rule: no new members could be added without a unanimous decision to do so based on a letter of introduction and a writing sample.
It was and is an amazing group. I only left to focus more on indie publishing. I love every single one of the FantasyWeavers. They are amazing, each and every one of them.” –Shevi Arnold
“A gal in my community made a post on Facebook right after I started my first book. We met face to face and then I recruited a writer neighbor and then another who invited her sister. Pretty soon we had a solid group of 6 writers. We lost and added a couple over the last 5 years but 4 of us remain the same. The greatest thing we’ve learned is that your personalities need to work well together. We still meet every two weeks and we do Skype meetings when everyone can’t be there.” –Robin M. King
#4: Reach out.
Do you know of old friends who used to write? Try contacting them and seeing if they’re still in the game. Maybe they’re in the same boat as you!
“I went to college with some of the ladies that are now in my writing group. We reconnected after we had all graduated. They already had a group going, then lost a member. They wanted someone else to be in their group. So one of the ladies asked me if I was writing. I said yes, but wasn’t being consistent about it. She asked if I wanted to join their group. I said yes.
Since joining that group, I’ve developed a habit of writing. We were all struggling with ideas so we starting finding fun prompts for a while. My current WIP is from one of those prompts. I’m now 65K words in and I wouldn’t be there without this group.
One of the ladies moved away, but now when we get together she Skypes or FaceTimes us. We really like our group, so we don’t want to let distance break us up. Luckily, technology lets us do that.” – Heather Sundblom Gonzalez
This brings me to…
#5: Be willing to try something other than an in-person group.
“I used to meet in person with a group, but my life was such that it stopped working out. Now I have a few close writing friends and we read and critique for each other (long distance, via online because we live far away). Our support of each other is unmatched. So sometimes in person groups work, but sometimes online is just as effective.” –Wendy Jessen
#6: Go to writing workshops and conferences.
“Found my people at a Saturday workshop. We were a motley assortment of fantasy writers with none of us writing the same thing, but we hit it off. The feedback they gave me was the perfect measure of criticism and support. Because that’s what makes a good group: we critique with every intention of seeing each other succeed.” –Jessica Springer Guernsey
“We sat next to each other at Authorpalooza at Barnes and Noble. Heather Ostler Pead asked Me and Shannen Crane Camp if we would be interested. She knew Mikki Kells from school. We met at The Chocolate kind of terrified of each other (well, I was). I remember reading their first pages, and heaving a sigh of relief because the talent was clearly evident. Since then, we’ve become support systems for each other through deaths, births, illnesses, breakdowns, freakouts, and even triumphs. I love these girls to the moon. On the days I want to give up on the dream, they are my cheerleaders. Sometimes we dress up, which makes me happy. In 4 years, we’ve produced 4.5 human babies and around 10 book babies. Only one of the book babies is mine, but I never would have managed to write it without them 🙂” –Lisa Rumsey Harris
“We were in the same class at WIFYR. After the conference, we critiqued each other’s first pages and queries for submission to the visiting agent, and one thing led to another… 😂” –Ilima Willing Todd
“I had a friend and we both sort of secretly giggled about wanting to be writers SOMEDAY. Then Rosalyn told me to come to Storymakers, so I brought the friend, and we left determined to be writers for reals.
Then my friend pulled in another aspiring writer, her SIL, and someone else found us online at Storymakers tribe. And then we added a few more people through ANWA.
And now we’re a really tight group, with both local people and distance people. I LOVE it.
I love having an online circle, and it’s also great to have a local in-person group. It’s a creative sisterhood and it adds so much to my life!” –Rebecca Sachiko Burton
#7: Take a leap and start your own!
“Our writing group started five years ago when my husband and I said to each other, “Hey, let’s form a writing group!” We reached out to a couple of local friends, and Darren whipped out a scrap of paper with an email address of someone he met briefly at Storymakers the year before who was looking for a group. It was kind of magical how it all came together and what a great match everyone was. The couple of people we’ve added in the past couple of years have also been a really good fit. It’s kind of a dream group.” –LaChelle Hansen
Erin Shakespear writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of…quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.