One of the best ways to get valuable, productive criticism of your book is to join a writer’s group. By meeting with and discussing your manuscript with other writers, you’ll get a fresh perspective from others who understand the writing process. Even after you’ve edited your book and done rewrites, you aren’t objective enough to gauge the quality of your own text. A writing critique group is one of the most valuable tools in any writer’s toolbox when set up correctly. Keep a few things in mind to get the most out of your writing group:
Find a Group That’s Supportive
Some writing critique groups have a few members who only seem to tear others down. Jealousy isn’t a good look for aspiring writers, so find a group with members who are genuinely seeking and offering guidance, not people who just want to trash others. Sitting in on a meeting before joining is a great way to judge whether it’s a good fit. The goal should be for everyone to improve their writing with the help of others.
Choose a Writing Critique Group Leader
Having a designated leader minimizes confusion or competition. If you have one member who is a natural organizer or facilitator, they can keep discussions on track and make sure no one is being overlooked. They can also rein in anyone who tries to hog the group’s time or resources. In general, the most experienced writer is a good fit.
Every writing group should have guidelines for how critiquing is handled. You can determine how much time each person gets to spend on giving and receiving feedback as well as what kind of comments are acceptable. Determine what kind of feedback each member does and doesn’t want to receive. This might change from time to time. For instance, a writer might want their character development to be critiqued early on but prefer to focus on tone and style later. Always respect the preferences of other members.
Offer Suggestions, But Remember Who’s Writing
Would you want someone to rewrite your manuscript, putting your story in their words? Then don’t do it to others. It’s OK to make suggestions, but don’t start slashing someone else’s manuscript because you would have written it differently. It’s not your book. Suggestions might be “Could you elaborate on this scene? I don’t understand his motivation,” or “The conversation seems stilted. Could you rephrase some of this?” Don’t tell them what to say but guide them toward why and where they can improve on it.
Be a Contributing Member
Don’t join a writing group expecting everyone to evaluate your work without taking the time to return the favor. These aren’t paid critics, they are writers like you, and their time is valuable. If the group has deadlines, make sure you meet them. Some groups ask members to have a certain number of chapters or pages ready for critique at each meeting. If you can’t meet the deadlines most of the time, the group isn’t a good fit.
Look for a Genre-Specific Writing Group
Joining a romance writer’s group won’t give you much help if you’re writing a mystery. While both genres are valid, the structure and goal of mysteries are entirely different from the structure and goals of romance novels. Look for a group that’s familiar with and loves your genre; they can provide valuable insights you won’t find elsewhere.
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