Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finding a Crit group...

The Critique

...because you don't want to hand your work to just anyone.

On Tuesday, a commenter asked for suggestions on how to start a local writers' crit group. I'll tell you my ideas, and then let other wise people add to the list in the comments.

Idea #1: Are there any local classes you can take? As I said, my current group is primarily made up of students who got along well together in class. But you don't need to like an entire classroom full of people in order to get a group started. If you find even one student who seems to "get" your work, or who had great insights, or who seems to be in a similar stage of the writing journey as you, why not ask that person if they'd like to meet semi-regularly outside of class? I have a particularly good rapport with one person from my group, and we have tried to do weekly meetings together in addition to our larger monthly group. Sometimes we discuss our works-in-progress, sometimes we discuss other books, sometimes we talk about publishing process, sometimes we review smaller sections of each other's work. (With a one-on-one thing, there's less need for a formal structure.)

Idea #2: Are there any local writers' associations? Boston is home to Grub Street, "a non-profit creative writing center dedicated to nurturing writers and connecting readers with the wealth of writing talent in the Boston area." They teach classes, they provide writing space, they host conferences, and they have a message board where writers can -- and do! -- post that they are looking for group members in a given geographical area. I've seen people building crit groups all over Massachusetts through this board.

Idea #3: Do you have a local bookstore? Indie stores are especially great as they often attract a certain writerly/literary community... the two in my area each have book clubs for readers, and regularly host author readings and signings. If there's a community message board in the store or right outside, that's an easy place to post an ad, but if not, go ahead and talk to one of the salespeople or someone behind the information desk. They might know of a group you can join, or at least have ideas about where best to recruit.

Idea #4: Craigslist. They have everything.

Idea #5: In November, it will be National Novel Writing Month again. That means that, starting in October, the forums will be buzzing again, and you can go hang with your regional group. Maybe they'll do some local meetups during November, and maybe you'll find some long-term writing partners.

It seems that crit groups have been on the collective brain this week: the agent blog at Crowe's Nest did a post on the Anatomy of Writer's Group yesterday, and today Sierra Godfrey talked about How To Give Someone Feedback On Their Story. I think I'll do something like a "seven habits of highly effective crit groups" in the near future, but until then, I'll simply say that if your crit group is not quite working for you? LEAVE. Say you don't have time, or that you need some space without outsider input for a while in order to strengthen your craft, whatever, but leave. If it's not fun, if you're not learning, if no one else "gets" your genre, if you're not comfortable with the group's discussion dynamics or style of critique, get out. Crit groups only work if they work, you know?

Does anyone else have ideas on how to find a local, actually-meets-in-person crit group?


  1. I've moved around a lot and started several groups by going through SCBWI's roster. I looked for others in my city/surrounding area and gave them a call. My current group I found through a local used bookstore.

  2. I found the group I presently belong to on You might also want to check with your local library as writing groups have a tendency to meet at public libraries.

  3. Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot in my area :(

  4. Marybeth, have you checked out the IndieBound Store Finder? Put in your zip code and find an indie bookstore (or other indie store) near you!

    And last year, there were 383 NaNoWriMo writers in your city -- not too shabby!

  5. Awesome. Thank you. I will put this advice to good use. :)
    And yes, I'm looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year. Last year was my first and I was too intimidated by the word count to get on board with the full resources available to me.
    But this year I'll be ready. :)

    I await anxiously your post on the seven successful habbits.

  6. To find mine, I typed "[My metro area] writing group" in Google and emailed several people who came up on the list. Also, Craigslist is great for finding or starting.

    The illustration is hilarious-- goes along with my post today of "What NOT to say when reading/reviewing someone's novel."

  7. Good advice here. Also, look for local chapters of groups that write in your genre. RWA and Sisters in Crime--as well as SCBW, as Caroline suggests--often have great crit groups--online and off. The important thing is not to write in a vacuum.