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Critique Groups Part 2: Private Online Groups

Cheryl's Musings: Critique Groups Part 2: Private Online Groups

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Critique Groups Part 2: Private Online Groups

A face-to-face group can be wonderful, but it's not the right answer for everyone. When I first needed a critique group, I had an infant at home and lived too far from town for an easy commute. Lucky for me, the Internet offered opportunities for me to connect with other writers.

Online critique groups are a great tool, especially for writers who can't join a face-to-face group. They offer opportunities to share work with other readers; to give feedback on others' writing (an exercise that will strengthen your own writing muscles); and to form connections and friendships with others walking the same writing road.

The primary advantage of an online group is its ease of use; the primary disadvantage is that it offers "low-bandwidth" communication, so that friendships and discussions develop much more slowly than they would face-to-face. However, both types of groups can provide excellent feedback on your writing. I've found that written critiques are generally superior to verbal-only critiques, if only because the written critiques tend to be better thought out. Written critiques work well in both venues.

Different types of groups work better for different people and for different situations. I participated in a series of online critique groups before settling into one that really "fit"--a group that focused on fantasy and wrote primarily for middle-grade and YA audiences. We stayed together for years before going different directions in our writing lives. We no longer function as a critique group, but we keep in touch. Even over "low-bandwidth" e-mail communication, friendships develop when you stick together for four? five? years.

Now I'm in two different face-to-face groups, one large (15 or so members) and one small (3 members). Another friend is in both of those groups plus an online group, where members critique each others' picture books. Critique groups have many different looks, purposes, structures, and expertise. It takes a bit of searching to discover which one is right for you.

If you think that a private online group might fit your current needs, tune in Monday. I'll post some resources for locating an online group or starting one of your own.

:) Cheryl

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At April 24, 2008 at 6:32 PM , Blogger Lauren said...

First off, I really love your blog. It's fun to read about the life of a working writer.

Second, about critique groups, when do you think is a good time to join? Should you wait until you are ready to have your work critiqued or should you go before you are ready to have the world (or even just a small sub-set) view your work.

Thanks :)

At April 24, 2008 at 8:33 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi bookintheoven (and I love the handle :-) )--

You've asked a good question. My personal opinion is that critique groups are always good. Even if you don't feel like you have something ready for critique, you can still get to know the other members and get a feel for what makes a good critique. Besides, critique groups can motivate you to GET something ready for them to read...even if it's just a first page.

My face-to-face group usually shares whole novels, passing them from member to member for a month or two until everyone has had a chance to read the manuscript. Then we spend a meeting discussing the work (and give the writer written comments as well.) BUT that's not all we do. One member just started a new book and wanted some feedback about whether it was working or not. He's been reading us chapter installments every month for a while now. Other members have brought in poems and picture book texts for feedback. They read them aloud and the group discusses.

We also share writing news and goals every month. My group knows that I'm finishing the rewrite of my latest book...and it helps me pick up my pen when I think of disappointing them all. I want a book to hand out in three weeks!

So to sum up--I think that groups are great for encouragement and growth as a writer, even if you aren't submitting anything for critique. They take a bit of work, so it's nice to be getting something back (i.e., comments on your own writing!) but that's only a part of what a critique group has to offer.

Good luck finding one!!



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