This letter of the A-Z Challenge was easy. I wouldn’t be writing today if I didn’t belong to the Callaway Critique Group.
Most successful writers recommend a good critique group and the web is full of advice on how to form, find, or manage one. There are debates on whether it is better to meet in person or online, whether meetings should be structured or laid back, and even instructions on how to interview “applicants.” The general consensus seems to be that good critique groups don’t just happen – they must be planned.
I didn’t actually read any of this advice before we started the group. That’s a good thing, because it probably would have scared me off of the whole idea. Our critique group sprang from a larger writer’s group that had been meeting once a month for several years. The large group was all about projects: readings, anthologies, workshops for beginners, and even a mentoring program for teen writers.
Some of us wanted to spend more time critiquing and getting critiques for our own writing. It felt selfish at the time, but splitting away from the big group is the best thing I ever did for my writing.
Most expert say a critique group should be small, no more that five or six members. We have a core group of five. We are all novelists, but genres and styles vary: literary, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror. (Yes, I know that’s more than five.) And if someone brings in a memoir or a bit of freelance copy-writing, nobody complains. We critique it.
We’ve been getting together for breakfast every other Saturday for about seven years. We share manuscripts by email a few days before each meeting. We also have an online group that allows us to keep in touch at a moments notice. Some days the emails fly back and forth, other days it’s quiet. But we always know the others are there if we need a query letter proof read right away, or quick sympathy and support after getting an impersonal rejection.
Bottom line, if you’re a new writer and don’t belong to a critique group, find one or form your own. It’s worth the effort.