Last week I got into an e-mail discussion with Colene Murphy about how our critique groups work and how we met them (and if you don't already know her, you should totally click the link and become acquainted . . . she's a lot of fun!). With her permission, I'm going to share some of our discussion.
How We Met Our Groups
Colene met her group through blogging. She said, "We all connected right around the same time when we started up, we all got close quickly, then we figured out we all wrote YA fantasy. Just clicked!"
I met my current group through the SCBWI Yahoo group for my area. I sent out an e-mail saying I was new to the area and wondered if there were any groups who met near me. One contacted me, inviting me to meet with them and the rest is history.
How We Critique
Because they don't live near each other, Colene meets with her group on Skype once a week, and they take turns submitting 50 pages at a time. She said, "We usually spend about 2 hours on the 50 pages. We go through a chapter at a time and bring up things we think really need to be discussed and ask questions where we need an answer on something. Grammar and little things we don't mention just because it would take so long."
In my group, everyone can submit up to 10 pages every Sunday. We have a week to return our comments via e-mail (we use the "Track Changes" feature of Word). Once a month we meet in person, where we can discuss not only that week's submission, but any other larger concerns we may have. We comment on things from grammar to pacing to plot. Whatever strikes us as we read.
What I Learned
1. If you are ready to find critique partners, there are a lot of ways to do so.
- Look for other bloggers who write in a similar genre and contact them.
- Join a national or local writing organization such as SCBWI, RWA, HWKT (shout out to my friends in Kansas City!). They usually will have methods in place to hook you up with other writers in your area.
- Join some writer's forums such as AbsoluteWrite, QueryTracker, or Verla Kay's. QueryTracker, for example has a forum titled "Critique Group Central" where you can seek out others. On this same vein, I was recently contacted by someone who had seen my query that I posted. Their book was similar, so they e-mailed me and asked if I would be willing to exchange work. I was totally up for it.
2. Make sure you find a critique method that works for you.
- Know how much critiquing you are willing to do. Exchanging 50 pages every week might be too much for you. Only ten pages might not be enough. I actually belong to a critique group via e-mail that only exchanges a chapter a month. For some that is enough. For others it's not.
- Know what kind of critiquing you want. Are you interested in line-edits? Or would you prefer overall comments of what's not working in the plot? Do you want to receive chapters before you meet? Or would it help you more to read your work out loud once you get there?
- Know how you prefer to receive comments. Do you do best in person? Or would you prefer the impersonal nature of e-mail exchanges?
If you are in a group, I'd love to hear how you connected with them and how your group works. So many ways to do it!
If you are looking for a group, or even a single critique partner, please feel free to give a shout-out in the comments. Be sure to mention what genre you write and perhaps the best way to contact you for those who may be interested. Who knows? Perhaps you may find that perfect CP!
Or if you prefer more anonymity, contact me (via my handy-dandy "Contact Me" tab), and I'll do what I can to connect those with common interests. :)