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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How to Start a Critique Group - Part 2 Who Do I Want in My Group and How Do I Find Them?

First, what kind of writers do you want and what experience level? Fiction? Non-Fiction? Genre? Literary? Beginners? Published Writers?

It's best to cast a wide net and not restrict your membership too much. If you go for just cozy mystery writers or people who write paranormal chick lit thrillers, all you're likely to get is lonely. All writers improve with practice. The important thing is that they write regularly. Ho Hum writers can turn into the next Stephen King or Flannery O'Conner with enough regular practice of the craft. See - one genre writer, one literary writer. Please don't write me cranky notes about comparing Stephen King to Flannery O'Conner.

Coffee and Critique is open to writers of all levels and interests because we were all starting out at one point. Our much published members give the benefit of their wisdom to beginners, and we all get to read material we may not have picked up on our own at a book store. As far as we're concerned, all of it teaches us about writing - whether it's the kind we do or not. Except we don't do poetry because we don't feel qualified.

But there is nothing wrong with concentrating on fiction or non-fiction, or even a specfic genre like fantasy or mystery. It can be tougher if you live in a rural area that has fewer writers. You may have to open it to any writer. If you live in a large city, it's much easier. You have a bigger pool to draw from.

Draw up your member guidelines and make flyers you can hand to interested parties.

Once you've decided who you want in your new critique group, how do you find them?
  • First google for local writers' organizations in your state. They've already herded the writers together for you - now go into the pen and pick the best fillys. Get thee to a local chapter meeting. Ask if anyone is looking to join a critique group, and you should get some interest. If there are no local chapters, you might email the state group and ask them to post a "Writers for Critique Group Wanted" notice on their website and indicate what area of the state you live in.

  • You can also post an ad on Craigslist. I recommend you include a specific meeting date in your ad that's about a week or two after your post. This gives your quest momentum and lets writers know you are serious. And us shy introvert people can just show up and not talk ourselves out of responding to your ad because it gives us an angina attack.

  • Check the bookstores. Not to beat this one over the head, but writers hang out near books. Barnes and Noble, Borders, and independent bookstores often have writers inside clip clopping away on their keyboards. Strike up a conversation (or if you are a introvert like me, go to the cafe, make up a tent sign for your table saying "Writers Wanted for a Critique Group," buy a latte, and wait for the writers to come to you).

  • Post your flyers in local libraries, colleges, and bookstores. If you don't have much time to hang out or can't make a local writers' meeting, this is your best option besides Craigslist. Be sure you get permission so the flier doesn't get trashed for being unauthorized. The student activities office at colleges is usually in charge of postings, or they can tell you who is.

This is how I would go about it. I met my current critique group through a local chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild. I met my previous critique group by lamenting my lack of critique partners to the writers I met at a writing conference. A writer who was in an established critique group was kind enough to invite me to check his out.

My next blog will be on developing rules for your writing community a.k.a. Lion Taming for Critique Group Leaders.

Links to this post and all previous posts on starting a critique group can be found on the right under FAQ.

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