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  1. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    How to find a critique group

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by KhalieLa, Mar 15, 2016.

    I am looking for a new critique group and found this article:

    http://hollylisle.com/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-or-how-to-choose-a-writers-group/

    I like the rules and guidelines that it lays out in helping to find a good group. Right now I think I'm in the "Sharks and Dinner" category.

    If I find anymore resources I'll add them . . . And if you find any, please share.
     
  2. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    THe woman who wrote these two gave me warm fuzzies:
    http://annerallen.com/2010/05/bad-advice-to-ignore-from-your-critique.html
    http://annerallen.com/2011/10/bad-critique-groups8-things-that-can.html

    This is targeted to Thriller and mystery writers, but it still had good advice for everyone:
    https://killzoneblog.com/2015/11/critique-groups-the-good-and-the-bad.html

    Curious how your critique group stacks up, take the quiz:
    http://www.julieleto.com/articles/critique-group-quiz/

    http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/oct-2012-ready-the-top-10-worst-types-of-critique-partners

    And finally, how to do it correctly:
    http://patriciastolteybooks.com/2016/01/6-secrets-of-successful-critique-groups-by-laurence-macnaughton/
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  3. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You find a good group by going to a couple meetings and seeing if you are getting consistently good advice. All the advice in the world would be great if there were a gazillion critique groups you could just shop around for.

    I've been in one group for years and I've tried four other groups. It comes down to the consistent members and how the group leader manages things. I really lucked out, the leader of our group is just an excellent teacher. I'm amazed he's so interested in helping other writers.
     
  4. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I have found four groups in my area. Two limit membership to Christians, one even goes so far to limit by church and only a couple churches pass muster. Then there's the Meet-up I tried, but all three of the other members get stoned before coming, which isn't going to improve their writing or mine. And then there's the group I've been suffering with.

    If I had know even the least little bit about critique groups, what to look for, and the kinds of questions to ask, I wouldn't have joined. But I wasn't an English major, so eagerly jumped in, thinking it would be fun and improve my writing. Since last fall I've learned a lot. As in, you should ask what they write and run from groups where members routinely come empty handed.

    Here's the run down:
    1. 1. The woman who claimed to have a book deal, doesn't. She gave some chapters to an editor or agent at a conference and assumed a deal would be forth coming. She is the only other person to submit work.
    2. The man who worked for the outdoor magazine - - he didn't actually write the articles, he took and paginated the pictures. He hasn't written a word since I joined last fall and I get the impression it's been years since he wrote anything.
    3. The man (Mr. Mann) who give such horrible feedback every week has never written or published anything. He doesn't bring things for critique either.
    4. The woman who "supported" herself by writing worked for an electrical engineering firm . . . she wrote those god-awful instructions pamphlets that come with electronic gadgets, that no one ever reads anyway. She doesn't bring things for critique either.
    5. The man who was a librarian hasn't show up in three months . . . no idea what his story is or where he went.
    6. The woman who stopped reading my work early on hasn't been there since before Christmas.
    Basically, it's a cheerleading group for the woman who claimed to have book deal, but didn't.

    Had I known to ask, "Who is in charge of the group?" I would be miles ahead of where I am now. Forget asking about genera's, something as simple as, "Do you consider work with characters who are not Christian?" would have eliminated them right off the bat.

    There is no way that I'm the only person whose naiveté landed them in a bad group. That's why I posted the articles. Hopefully others can learn from my mistakes.
     
  5. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm so sorry you had such difficulty finding the right group. I totally understand that. What I'm saying is all those pointers are not going to find the group. Were there any you joined that were good but you misjudged as bad? Would the list of good critique group characteristics have helped you recognize the problem sooner?

    I agree it takes a while to learn what is good and what is bad critique. Unfortunately, finding a good group is the luck of the draw.
     
  6. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Absolutely.

    I recognized the Meet-Up group wasn't a good fit after just a few meetings. That was in large part because I've been reading articles on how to find a critique group about once a week for the last couple months. They were pleasant people, but it was clear that for them it was more about socializing than writing.

    Also, the "bad advice to ignore" articles were helpful. Since I have no background in fiction writing, I didn't recognize I was getting bad advice, until way late in the game. I come from a background of academic writing and recognized that what shows up in peer reviewed journal articles doesn't even remotely resemble a novel. I can write well; I've been published several times. But even with that in my past, I was still susceptible to bad advice, simply because I doubted my ability to tackle a novel.

    I'm sure others have the same problems, especially those who are new to writing. They would be even more likely to fall victim to a bad group than I was.
     
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  7. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee and @Wreybies

    I just got a reply from a group I sent a request for information too. The group is closed and only accepts dues paying members. Is this normal? Does it sound legitimate? What is your experience with paid groups?
     
  8. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    How much are the dues? If it's very small it's likely legit paying for the meeting room or the Meetup charge. Meetup charges about $160/year I think. I give $20 (we have somewhere around 12 regular attendees).

    When you say closed, though, does that mean they have no room?
     
  9. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    This is what they sent in the email:
    "Our group has a $25.00 membership fee. This entitles you to the periodic newsletter, admission to the annual convention, and the opportunity to submit to the annual contest in which monetary prizes are awarded to the winners."

    Closed means they will not accept just anyone one. I need to come to two meetings before they will decide if they will accept me and you cannot be a member if you don't pay.
     
  10. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That sounds good actually. You get 2 meetings to see if it's what you want and if that $25 is for a year that's reasonable, it's just organization fees.

    From here it sounds like some serious writers. I hope it works out for you.
     
  11. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds good, you can spare two meetings and $25.
     
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  12. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote an article a while back about selecting an appropriate/good crit group:

    http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/critlist.html (Title: Five Considerations before Joining a Crit Group)

    Over the years I've moderated two online crit groups (Planet Ink and Elysian Fields). The former had a 3 year run and the latter about 7 or 8.

    A few observations to stress:

    Join a motivated group, one that has members published and continuing to work toward publishing, and/or members working toward reaching publication. This will mean that the members can offer advice and insight based upon experience (both for writing, considering publishers, contracts, marketing, etc.) in addition to reviewing works in progress.

    Join a group that has rules and structure. This will help it from being dominated by one or two members, and from becoming little more than a social club. Ones that screen potential members and have ways to remove members is generally a positive. Minimum submission and reading/crit requirements is also something that is of value.
     
  13. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Thanks--
    I have been invited to this group's April 7th meeting and am trying to put together a rubric of things to look for, so I'll be able to figure out if it's a good group w/o wasting a lot of time.

    Just the two points above would be a vast improvement over where I'm at now.

    This group says they have 20 members, which has me wondering, if the meetings are only 90 min, then only 2 or 3 people would be able to get feedback each month. (Especially if they are the king of group that reads, rather than trading papers.) That would mean each person would only be able their work critiqued about once every 6 months. If the goal is publication, how can that happen when you only get feedback twice a year or so?
     
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  14. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends on the amount that gets critiqued. If you get a major portion of a novel critiqued, every 6 months would work out...as most people would take at least that long to write a novel, if not more. On the other hand, 20 members is a lot of folks to read and critique for, so say 20 novels a year (1 per member) would be quite a bit.

    Remember, every hour you're critiquing is an hour you're not writing. Yes, you learn by reading and making suggestions to other author's work, and you benefit from having competent and insightful writers read and comment upon your work...but time spent elsewhere, away from a project, delays it's completion. So there is a balance...what benefits you reap for the time you invest.
     
  15. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    What do you mean my "major portion?" I was envisioning each person reading 5 or 10 pages and getting feedback before moving on to the next person. If each person is slotted half an hour and 10 to 15 min is taken up by reading, then that doesn't leave much time for critique. How could you possibly make it through anyone's novel in a year at that rate?
     
  16. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Kinds of critique groups I've been to:

    In one group everyone posted ~5,000 words online and people read ahead and came ready to critique. That was just too time consuming for me.

    Another had each member read their piece aloud, about 1,500 words max. That didn't work for me either. Good writers are not always good readers and it's much harder to follow.

    The group that does work for me: we bring in multiple copies of our about 6 pages double spaced (1,500 words or less). Everyone takes a few minutes to read the piece, you can mark typos and grammar but we keep comments to bigger things, story, character, setting et cetera.

    You never have to make more than 4 copies with your original that gives you 5 which is enough for a group of 6. We don't have 6 very often, 4 or 5 makes a good size group. The whole group splits in two if we have more than 6 and into 3 groups if we have the max number of 14. Our meetings average 2.5 to 3 hours.

    The number of group members is much greater but not everyone comes consistently.
     
  17. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you indicated above only 2-3 people a month from the group, of 20, which meant twice a year, 10 pages of content for review did not appear very significant. But if you were getting impressions 1 or 2 times a year over 100 or more pages (not line edits) but commentary on characterization, effective use or ineffective use of dialogue or POV, pacing, description, etc., with specific instances to illustrate, that made sense.

    In my opinion, if you're going to get critiqued for a few thousand words every six months, the time investment may not be worth it. Of course critting a chapter or maybe three a month isn't a big investment in time. Maybe the group offers more, such as marketing support, or it's members have the ear of decent agents, or some editors, because they're already published authors, or something else, then that would add value.
     
  18. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee I knew there were other types of groups, but not having experienced any of them, did not know how they operated. Thank for the info.

    I had no idea people even did that, that sounds amazing! Much better than having someone hemorrhage over a dangling participle, or heaven forbid, having a character end a sentence with a preposition!

    ^^^Okay, that wasn't a real example, but it was damn fun to write!

    I didn't know people did that either, that also sounds amazing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
  19. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe Member

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    This thread seems to be about physical crit groups, i.e. you move your body to a common location at a scheduled time. Apologies if I'm going off the rails, but what about e-groups? I've been on scribophile for a couple of months now (I think I joined in December). They have the normal public critiquing forums, where response is unpredictable (which is, I think, why such sites aren't more popular). But they also have different groups on the site, such as beta-swapping groups and chapter-critting groups. They're generally organized by genre, and operate on a specified schedule.

    My group is just now in the final week of beta-swapping. Four of us have each read one person's MS per week, sent back individual beta notes, and had a forum discussion at the end of the week. Honestly, I'm not sure what more you'd get from a physical-presence group.
     
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  20. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    We've tried to get that kind of thing going here @Guttersnipe, it's a work in progress. GoodReads has similar groups, but they are usually full unless you start a new one.
     
  21. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I once wrote something really nifty. A publisher thought it was really nifty too, that's why they published it. Imagine my shock at seeing my really nifty writing being published under someone else's name! It took months of working with the publisher and the institution's ombudsman to get that person's name removed and replaced with mine.

    That's why I don't collaborate with the electronic masses.
     
  22. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    As I prepare to move forward, I've compiled a list that seems to cover most the major issues highlighted in the articles above. Are there any pertinent questions that I've missed?

    Facility Management
    1) Does the group meet consistently?
    2) Is the meeting space quiet, comfortable, and conducive to work?

    Group Organization
    3) Is there a moderator to run the meetings and manage time?
    4) Do they have clearly defined goals? Are those goals in writing?
    5) Are there rules for the people whose work is being critiqued? Are these rules in writing?
    6) Are there set rules for behavior of those giving critiques? Are these rules in writing?
    7) Is there a policy for removing troublesome members? Are these guidelines written?
    8) How often are members eligible to have their work critiqued?
    9) Are there rules for the min/max length for critique submission?
    10) Are there membership dues or fees? If so how much?

    Writing Issues
    11) Do they accept/approve of writing in your genera?
    12) What level are the writers? Published? Unpublished? Mixed levels?
    13) Do they perpetuate bad writing myths? (Grammar police, eliminate all cliché's, put thoughts in italics, etc.)
    14) Does group membership come with any perks? (Ability to attend workshops/conferences, meet with agents, participate in contest, etc.)

    Goodness of Fit
    15) Are people from your race/ethnicity/religion/sexual orientation accepted as group members?
    16) Does everyone bring work or do a bunch of people routinely come empty handed?
    17) Do they actually accomplish anything at the meetings?
    18) Do they expect you to "prove" you made the changes they recommended?
    19) Do the people seem to like each other?
    20) Is anyone happy to see you?
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  23. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @KhalieLa

    Each crit group is different, not only in their make up, and possibly rules, but also what is offered among its members.

    As stated, I ran two online groups over they ears at the now defunct Authors by Design forum.

    It was sort of a neat set up. The forum was a regular forum, like this one (not nearly as active), but had sections that were available only to members of the various crit groups. Each crit group was visible (and accessible) only to members, and the forum admins, of course. This was neat as there was no worry about a short story being 'published' online, for example, and work and crits were private.

    Each member had their on section in the forum where they would post chapters or sections or stories, and members would crit them, much like replying to a post in this forum. Yes, we would remark upon SPaG, but that wasn't the focus...in the end, a publisher would edit (or if self-publishing, hire an editor), but making it cleaner never hurt.

    Then we would have a rotation. Three Thursday evenings a month, we would meet online in a chat room, where the person on the 'hot seat' would have their work submitted since the last time they were in the 'hot seat' was the topic. The members would be rotated through on a regular schedule.

    We also shared marketing information, discussed contract clauses and concerns, and other authorly/writerly stuff.

    There were rules to follow (and as moderator, it was not always fun to enforce them). We also had an admission to the group process, where someone wanting to join would apply. They would give a brief bio/description of their writing and their writing goals, and also provided a 500 or so word writing sample. This would give the membership an idea of what to expect. Then, the individual would be giving probationary membership, and if things worked out, permanent membership. It was also not fun telling writer applicants that they were not going to be offered a chance with the group. Like everything else in writing, it may not be the writer, but the audience (this time the crit group), and one more opportunity for a writer to develop a thick skin.

    We never had any big name successes in our group. Most of us made it with small presses and a few self-published, and some preferred short stories and made occasional sales there. But what was important was that the members were motivated writers. Talking about writing is one thing. Actually writing is another. It was somewhat of a motivator to know that every six or eight weeks, you were going to be on the hot seat, and needed to have adequate material (chapters, stories, etc.) submitted to make it worth everyone's while.

    The point is that there are good groups out there. They are sometimes difficult to find, but worth a lot if you can. And that is just one example...what worked for me...members of Elysian Fields and Planet Ink, while they existed.

    I think that what was important/vital was the group chat. It wasn't as effective as a face to face meeting of group members to discuss work, but it added an element that an online forum posting cannot. Real time discussion, question and answer, brain storming and explanation and more. It's where I learned a lot.
     
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  24. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I put my questions in a handy-dandy, printable sheet. (Then noticed that I spelled my own name wrong! My mother hates it when I do that!)

    Anyway--should anyone else want to know what kind of questions to ask and things to consider, here's my list. I hope it can be a useful tool for others as well.
    http://khalielawright.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/20-Question-Critique.pdf
     
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  25. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I was emailed the stories for the new critique group I will be meeting this Saturday.
    Both documents are formatted like legal briefs, complete with numbering the lines. None of the other groups I've tried did this. Is this normal?

    I'm working in Word, so it's easy enough to throw in line numbers, I've just never seen this done outside of legal documents.
     

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