After many hours (weeks, months) of hunching in front of a notebook or keyboard, the new writer will look up, triumphant, only to realize something important: writing is a lonely vocation. At least, that was my experience. I longed for someone to share my wins and frustrations with, someone who’d “get it,” as a writer. I longed for community.
Enter one of the most under-used tools a writer could add to her tool belt: a writing critique group.
What is a writing critique group?
A writing critique group (also called a writing circle) is a group of writers who have committed to reading and critiquing each other’s work on an ongoing basis. This could be in person or online; the group may meet once a month or once a week–whatever meets the needs and desires of the members. However they choose to meet, what matters most is a commitment to building each other up and to help hone skills and grow community.
Why should you join a writing group?
There are a lot of reasons you should consider a writing critique group. Three of the big ones are:
- Community. Outside of academia, most writers aren’t automatically surrounded by like-minded creators. In order to thrive, we need other writers in our lives. Writing circles are a great place to start building that network.
- Feedback. We write in solitude, but our writing shouldn’t stay there if we want to grow. Getting feedback from a group of other writers is one of the best ways to hone your craft. You may also find, like me, that giving feedback is as valuable as getting it: I’ve learned a lot by exercising my editing and analyzing skills.
- Accountability. We all benefit from having deadlines, especially early on when our deadlines are mostly self-imposed. Having a regular meeting where you are writing and reading means you’ll always have something to be working towards, inch by inch.
Where can I find a writing critique group to join?
Finding a writing circle to join can seem daunting at first. Here are a few places to start:
- Your local library. Call and ask if they host a writing critique group at the library. Chances are, even if they don’t, they’ll have a lead on the next place for you to check.
- A local university or community college. Reach out to the English faculty at your local educational institution. Most teachers will be delighted to point you in the right direction for local meet-ups.
- Online. As technology like video chatting has become easier to use and more widely adopted, you no longer have to be in the same geographic area as the other people in your writing circle. A quick search online will bring you a myriad of good options for online writing communities to join, many of which facilitate their own writing circles (Moms Who Write included–join us on Facebook)!
Some tips for starting a writing circle
Lastly, if you decide the best way to join a writing critique group is by forming one of your own, here are some best practices to get you started on the right foot.
- Have a point person. Having a volunteer to facilitate your group, especially in the early days, will make your formation a lot smoother. Her job is to make sure your group starts discussing how, when, and where your group is going to meet, how you’re going to give feedback, and making sure everyone knows where and when to send in their pages for critique.
- Adopt a Rules of Conduct. Draft a document that says how you expect members to treat each other. This is especially important if not everyone in the group already knows each other. Sharing our writing can be a vulnerable thing, and knowing how others are expected to treat you and your work can make the space safer, faster.
- Start with relationship. Before diving into critique, have a meeting or two just to get to know each other. Talk about your lives, your writing, and your goals. For many writers, a writing circle becomes a core group of friends. I hope you find the same to be true of yours!
Some other great tips and resources for how to participate in writing circles can be found at the following links:
- High Sierra Writers: Writers Critique Groups
- The Writers Loft
- How To Set Up A Writing Critique Group: 5 Cardinal Rules
- Writers Digest: Writers Group Etiquette
Good luck, friends!
About The Writer: Abby is a writer of fiction and poetry who joined the Moms Who Write team in November of 2021. She’s a homeschool mom of three who loves to teach writing and literature on the occasions she can be torn away from puttering in her garden and binge-reading whatever strikes her fancy. She lives in a rural town in Central Illinois with her husband, three kids, two cats, a guinea pig, and six chickens. To read more of Abby’s writing and to find her social media links, please visit her website at www.abbyharding.com.