A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend who is a writer. Although she isn’t new to writing, she is new to the online writing community and is ready to begin the process of submitting to agents and editors. As we were chatting about submission how-to’s and query letters, I mentioned to her that she really needed to find a critique group.
“How do I find a critique group?” she asked.
Good question. And that question brings me to this post.
I am fortunate enough to belong to a fabulous online critique group, the Penguin Posse. We are a group of seven women kid lit writers from all over the world. We hail from New York, Virginia Beach, Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Italy, and Australia. I love these talented, brainiac women. And after a few years of working together, we are not only a fabulous critique group but also friends. And while you definitely need to study your craft and attend conferences, a critique group just may get your writing where it needs to be a little faster.
Writing is a solitary act. But time and time again, studies have shown that people need a support group in order to be successful. It’s the “Hive Mind” theory, and a critique group fills this need perfectly.
From Google: hive mind noun noun: hive mind; plural noun: hive minds; noun: hivemind; plural noun: hiveminds 1. a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence. "He has become one of those celebrities whose online presence has made him a favorite of the Internet hive mind.”
So let’s get back to the question. How do you find a critique group?
Find Your Community. The invention of the Internet is a blessed thing for writers. As introverts, we get to be alone (YAY!) and still connect with the outside world (double YAY!)—all from the privacy of our homes. Are you a kid lit writer? You can join the SCBWI and connect with peeps in person at conferences. Or, if you join one of the many online kid lit groups via Facebook, you can make online friends and form a critique group there. The key? Join groups, sign up for classes, participate in monthly challenges. All of these communities will lead you to hive-minded people who could potentially become critique partners. I found my group in an online kid lit forum through Facebook, and I know many other writers who have found successful groups that way too.
Get Involved. Don’t join a community and then never participate! Don’t be a lurker! Comment on posts, ask questions in forums. If you join without participating, you will never feel like you belong. Get involved! Force yourself, especially if it’s outside of your comfort zone.
Do A Trial Run. Not sure you want to commit to a group right away? Many communities have manuscript critique places on their sites. Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 (membership fee required) has a forum where you can post the first 250 words for open critique by her members. KidLit411.com has a Manuscript Swap Facebook group (free) where you can privately swap manuscripts without any critique group commitment. Ladies Who Critique is a free site where you can connect with other professional writers who are also looking for critique partners.
And there are many more. All you need is a quick Google search and you are on your way!
ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is a kid lit writer of picture book and middle grade stories. She also scours the internet for golden nuggets of information about children’s writing for the website she founded, KidLit411.com. She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and a menagerie of animals. Find her online at elainekielykearns.com