Monday, April 01, 2013

A Word on the Write Critique Group

Writing can be a lonely business. And after awhile, we are too close to our work to be objective. That’s where writing groups can be extremely helpful. If you’re interested, ask your local library or retail bookstore about a group in your area. There are online writing critique groups as well. Check them out carefully and choose one that is closest to your genre or style of writing. Or maybe you’d like to form your own group.

There are many different types of writing groups. The first one I joined, and still attend, meets weekly in a local library after hours. It’s a great opportunity for writers to share ideas and discuss, what else, writing! Because it is an open meeting, the attendance could vary from eight people one week to over twenty the next. Writers read their poetry or prose aloud for general comments and suggestions.

Though I learned a great deal from the members of this group, and have received helpful criticisms of my work, I needed more. The blog Up Around the Corner by Terry W. Ervin II provided the answer. A critique group – a small group of writers who share their work for line-by-line review. I recognized that such a group would be invaluable to serious writers like me.

With copies in hand of Ervin’s Five Areas to Consider before Joining a Writing Critique Group, four of us committed to a weekly two-hour meeting allowing each of us thirty minutes. Our genres include historical fiction that Bob refers to as faction and Victorian romance, that when read with Anne’s Scottish lilt transports us back in time. Fantasy was my least favourite genre but that was before I heard Ryan’s short stories, and my crime/suspense novel chapters have the group teetering at the edge of their seats (just kidding), and we also have a short story writer and editor, Delia, who now and then needs to remind us of the ‘rules’ and ‘style’ of writing.

Okay, did you count five of us? Invariably one of us is unavailable and so there are usually only four readers.   

If you are considering such a group, it is imperative that the members each have a copy of the work you are reading. That’s the difference between a crit group and a reading group. Perhaps one week instead of sharing your work, you’d prefer discussing a problem or issue with your storyline. Impressions and suggestions from a critique group are especially important when we need fresh eyes on a project.

A word of advice – if you meet in your homes, don’t worry about serving food or drinks. If people want a coffee or doughnut, they will stop at the drive-through on their way. Keep the focus on writing, not entertaining.

Another word of advice − the longer you read, the less time for analyzing. If you want a thorough critique, don’t use up more than half of your allotted time reading your story. 

If you’re serious about forming or joining a group, check out Terry W. Ervin’s blog

Yes, writing can be a lonely business. Inspiration and increased motivation come from networking with those who speak the same language.

Best of luck in finding a critique group that’s right for you.


  1. Phyllis, glad the article helped you out. I like the comment about donuts and coffee. If anything, it just puts excessive pressure on the host, and takea away from the point of the meeting.

    1. Hey Terry, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment.