Members of the Middle Grade Mafia Critique Group (Right to left: Lisa Lewis Tyre; Kevin A. Springer; Debbie D'Aurelio; Alison Hertz)
Behind Every Published Author….
Writers are often asked to do a reading of their book at signings. While I might pick a funny scene from the first chapter, that’s not my favorite part. No, my favorite section is the Acknowledgments page, because that’s where I got to thank my critique partners.
For years I harbored a secret dream of becoming a writer, but it wasn’t until I found a couple of friends and formed a critique group, that I actually started writing with any regularity. I’m convinced that my upcoming novel, LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS, would have never have seen the light of day with my writing partners.
My critique partners have been integral to my success as a writer.
What makes a top-notch critique group? Here are 3 things I’ve found that seem to make all the difference.
A great critique group should be able to meet on a regular basis. I’m a member of The Middle Grade Mafia, and we meet twice a month at a local café. We have between six and ten people at every meeting, and we meet for two hours. And I better have something to share. My group knows that I’m on deadline and have full authority to give me serious stink eye if I show up too often without pages.
If you don’t have time to meet every two weeks, don’t worry. I’ve had other groups that only met once a month and they were very effective, just hold your meetings consistently.
Critique members should take writing seriously. When you have something to read, they should be able to listen, and give constructive feedback. By constructive, I mean honest, no BS, even if it hurts, analysis. And when one of you is ready to submit, everyone in the group should take the time to really go through your sub with a fine-toothed comb. That may sound like a given, but keep in mind that these people will probably have read your manuscript several times by the time you’re ready to send it out, and you want people who will happily read it AGAIN.
When my latest group formed, we had one published book and one agent between us. Now we have four published books, three agents, two novels out on submission, several finished novels, full out with agents, and much more.
It’s impossible to have a good critique group without a good leader. My current critique group is led by the awesome, Debbie D’Aurelio. She does a great job of organizing us all. She keeps us on track, sends out reminders, brings contests and book signings to our attention, etc. and in the very rare case that we add someone who doesn’t work out, well, she has to be the bad guy and let them know.
Now that you know what makes a good critique group, let’s talk about where to find them!
1. Your Circle of Friends
Tell the people in your life that you want to form a critique group. That’s how I found my first one – the wife of a friend heard I liked to write, then she invited a client, and voila – my first group. We all wrote different things, but we loved getting together and reading what each other had done. Because I didn’t know them well, it was terrifying, but it also made me do my very best. Ask around. You might be surprised by how many people in your church, neighborhood, etc. also want to write.
2. Professional Associations
I became a member of SCBWI and added my name to the list of people looking for a critique groups. Several months passed before I got an email, but it did eventually come. Now I’m in a fabulous critique group with great people. Write romances? The RWA has a critique partner match up, too. Science Fiction or Fantasy – then you’ll want to try the SFWA!
3. Online Groups
Don’t have a lot of time in your schedule to meet, or live too far away from the closest group? Try an online group instead. Below are just a few, but a Google search will reveal dozens more.
Ladies Who Critique – “Ladies Who Critique is a critique partner matching site for writers of all levels – published, unpublished, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies.”
Agent Query Connect – Agent Query is a great resource and has a forum just for people looking for critique partners.
CP Seek – “A community for writers to find others to bounce ideas off of and find new critique partners or beta readers. Have a look around, and then join up. Registration is free!”
My dream of becoming a published author is about to come true, and I want the same for everyone with a similar wish. Find a great critique group and get writing. Good luck!
About Lisa Lewis Tyre's LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS (from Goodreads blurb):
Debut novelist Lisa Lewis Tyre vibrantly brings a small town and its outspoken characters to life, as she explores race and other community issues from both the Civil War and the present day.
Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots.