In last week's post, I looked at the difference between critique partners (CPs) and beta readers, and ended with the question "but how do we find critique partners?"
Today's post will give you a few ideas on how to get started on the search for the perfect critique partner.
The very first people to ever lay eyes on my writing were a small group of women I met while doing a writing course. After the course finished, we kept in touch, started meeting regularly for breakfasts to keep each other accountable, and shared our work with one another chapter-by-chapter, even though we all wrote in very different genres. Those friendships have lasted through marriages, births, divorces, career changes and many books.
Are there any writers' groups in your area? Are there any local organisations that run courses? Any indie writer events or support groups you can meet up with?
If you write Romance novels, you might encounter ignorance and prejudice from other writers, and may find it difficult to find a supportive or willing critique partner in your area. Or if you live far away from urban areas, you may not have a lot of other writers close by, in which case you can...
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of critique groups out there. Again, I suggest starting local.
When I first started writing romance, my friend Mandy and I were the only romance writers we knew. Romance was a dirty word in South African literary circles, so we felt very much alone. We slowly reached out to writers we found through Google, until we had a network of South African writers who met online through a Yahoo group. That Yahoo group eventually became ROSA, a professional association of romance writers which is currently 80+ members strong. While the organisation doesn't offer a critique service, we do have local chapters that meet in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, aspiring writers who join our Strelitzia mentorship program are encouraged to form a support network, and we have a Facebook group where members can post requests to swap work.
When I first started writing, Yahoo Groups were all the rage. You could type 'critique group' into the search box and find hundreds of groups. Today, Facebook is the place to find these groups. Go to search, find a group that shares your genre interests, check them out, and ask to join. Simple!
Facebook is where you'll also find the wonderfully supportive Dragon Writers group, which was started by South Africans. While not a critique group, it's a useful place to look for beta readers and crit partners across a wide range of genres.
Twitter may not seem like a place to swap work, but by following certain hashtags or contests, you can meet like-minded writers. Contests like #PitchWars, #SFFPit, and #PitMad are good places to start.
Other online places to meet CPs
Type 'critique group' into Google and you'll find many, many groups. Here are a hand-picked few to get you started:
RomCritters Yahoo Group (going strong for 21 years)
Harlequin's original writer forums have been replaced by this Facebook group
Inked Voices (charges membership fees)
Savvy Authors (offers both free and paid memberships)
There are many writers' organisations that offer critique partner matching services, but these usually require that you pay a membership fee to join. This isn't a bad thing, since at least you know that everyone signing up for the service is just as committed as you are to writing.
These include RWA (Romance Writers of America), Sisters in Crime, National Association of Memoir Authors, Mystery Writers of America, and the International Women's Writing Guild.
Critique Partners vs. Critique Groups
Depending on your needs, you'll need to decide between a one-on-one partnership with just one other writer, or a group. The pros of a one-on-one partnership is that you can grow a true, trusting relationship, but the con is that if your partner is busy, has a work or family crisis, you may not get feedback in the timeframe you want, and the feedback may be limited only to that person's point of view. Being part of a group means that there will most likely always be someone available to read your work, and you'll get a wide variety of different responses, but the con is that you may not develop the same bonds with all members, and not all members' feedback is equal. In the end, the value you get, whether it's from one person or a group, depends very much on WHO those people are, and how you fit with them.
In next week's post I'll look at finding the RIGHT partner, critique partner etiquette, and how to build a partnership that will stand the test of time.