Concrete Ways To Suss Out Potential Critique Group Members

by Amber Keyser
Published on: June 4, 2011
Comments: 3 Comments

OR:  HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SCRIVAS

Our readers often ask how they can find a group like ours.  In the FAQ section of this blog, we offer general suggestions for how to connect with other writers, but that is only the first step.  Once you’ve identified a list of people that all want a great critique group, how do you make it happen?

FIRST, ask questions up front to try and assess fit.

How long have you been writing?
How much time do you have for writing?
What are your writing goals?
How often would you like to meet?
How often will you have a piece to critique?
What is your writing/publishing experience?

There are all sorts of reasons we write, and there needs to be a match in terms of purpose.

I was in a group once where one woman was a visual artist who was writing to keep her creativity alive  until her kids were old enough for her to go back to oil painting.  I was trying to build a career as a professional writer.  Mismatch!

Another time I was with a group of women where everyone but me was primarily interested in writing stories for their own kids.  Again, mismatch!

Finally, I exchanged writing with one superbly, talented writer, who had a very demanding full-time job.  She and I could not keep the same pace. Mismatch!

SECOND, ask potential critique group members to participate in a book round table.  It would work like this.  I’ll use a picture book group as an example but this will work with any genre.  Ask each participant to bring in 2-4 picture books (published by strangers) and be prepared to point out what works and what does work about each one.  This is a non-threatening way to see what kind of a critique that person might give.  Plus it is a fun way to practice analyzing manuscripts.

THIRD, do a test drive manuscript exchange — a clean version of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”  Read each other’s work.  This will enable you to assess whether you can get behind that person’s writing.  One key to Scriva mojo is that we have an immense amount of respect for the writing of the other Scrivas.  You’ll know quickly whether your potential critique partner is doing work that you can believe in.

The EXPERIENCE question.  A fit on the “experience” level is the trickiest.  The truth is that new writers benefit most from being with experienced writers.  Experienced writers tend to need each other while a group of new writers may not have the expertise to proceed effectively.  There is an obvious problem here.

What is a new writer to do?

Remember that many unpublished writers are very good writers and may be very good critiquers as well. The missing piece is knowledge about the business and professional connections.  A group of new writers can divvy up tasks and take steps to educate themselves.  (Wondering how to do this?  I’ll have to do a blog post!)  You can also invite more established, local writers to come as a guest to your critique group.  Many may be flattered by the opportunity to share their knowledge.

And you experience writing professionals out there…  consider taking a flyer on a newbie.  It just might be the best thing you ever did!

 

 

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3 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. […] But… while you are building the aforementioned group of bloodwriters, finding a partner to exchange manuscripts with is a great way to begin.  See our post on that topic here. […]

  2. Dear Vivascriva Team,

    I googled “manuscript exchange” and fell on your blog. I am an aspiring author and would like very much to exchange my manuscript with another aspiring author.
    I’ve been writing since 1992 though I never pursued my first book. When I read the “Hobbit”, I absolutely wanted to become an author. I read the Hobbit later than most anglo-saxon people because I live in the French-spreaking part of Switzerland (I spoke English at home, namely with my father who was a known physicist – Marcel J. E. Golay, you find him in Wiki). I have nearly finished my third novel “LITE YEER and the Ghost World”, a fantasy book addressed to twelve-year old readers onwards which I would like to exchange with another manuscript. Any possibility? Thanks!
    Monique

    • Amber Keyser says:

      Dear Monique,
      At this time we are all quite busy with our critique group commitments but we do offer paid manuscript critiques if that is of interest to you. Check out the “Services” tab on vivascriva.com. Otherwise we suggest joining SCBWI. They can help you connect with a critique group or partner. Good luck with your writing!
      Best,
      Scriva Amber

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