Critique Partners & Groups

Yesterday we discussed the need to have a Faithful friend to travel with us on the writing journey.

Many of you mentioned having critique partners or belonging to critique groups. Agent Chip MacGregor had a great post (Feb.19) about the need for writers to have a critique partner or group. Among other things he said: Every writer needs a critique group. New writer or experienced hand, you gain wisdom when you have other writers looking at your work. A critique group offers you an honest appraisal, and provides an on-going learning experience.

I can't say that I've had much experience yet with either. When I joined ACFW, I signed up right away for a critique group. I filled out their questionnaire and critiqued their sample document. I waited a few weeks, and finally was matched with three other very sweet, godly, historical writers. We introduced ourselves, then organized a schedule for exchanging our writing.

I lasted a week. I quickly realized I could not put forth the amount of time and energy such a group required, especially if I wanted to give them my best feedback without rushing through their chapters. And I didn't want to sacrifice too much of my limited writing time. So, I begged their forgiveness and backed out of the group.

I'm just beginning the process of getting linked with a critique partner, a wonderful new blogging friend, Sherrinda. We recently discovered we both write historical romances in the middle ages and our stories start on a similar vein. We're still trying to figure out how to exchange our manuscripts, how to edit, what time frames to use, and all of the other details that critiquing involves.

Which have you tried, critique group or critique partner? What was your experience (for either the positive or negative)?

P.S. And if you have any advice for Sherrinda and me as we start our partnership, I'd love to hear that too.


  1. I was a member of Critters, an online group of F/SF/H writers. It's been around a few years and is very well run. One of the stories I ran through received very thoughtful feedback and went on to be published.

    But like your experience, I found it gobbled up time. Plus, it takes up to a month for a manuscript to bubble to the top--long waits when I just want to get crackin'

    I'm seriously thinking about returning because it's good exercise in editing and helping others, which improves my writing.

  2. Critique partners are the best! I also tried a critique group through ACFW, but it was so incredibly time consuming. Critique partners offer the best of both worlds - IMHO. You get continual feedback on your work. The setting is more intimate. I know my critique partner has my best interest at heart and wants my story to be just as good as I want it to be. There are those sour apples in the bunch that don't have your best intentions in mind... which is sad. And I get to critique her work. But I'm not bogged down with 3+ submissions to critique each week. Plus - it really helps when you get a rockin' critique partner (like I have). I can really see your partnership withh Sherinda taking off and being such a blessing!

    Suggestions - get to know each other via email and phone. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and what you are looking for through your new relationship. Brutal honesty? Encouragment?

    Best wishes to you and Sherinda!

  3. Hi Rebecca,
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who backed out of a critique group because of the time committment! I'm sure such a group would offer a wide spectrum of opinions that you could sift through vs. just one opinion from a crit. partner. But I guess you have to carve out the time to reciprocate.

    Hope you are able to find something that works for you!

  4. Hi Katie,
    Thanks for those suggestions! We do need to figure out yet our strengths and weaknesses and how detailed of critiques each of us really want. I'm really praying we can be a blessing to each other! And encourage one another to keep going!

  5. Hi Jody,
    My first critique group was RWC, a huge online forum where I'd have to crit two subs and then I could sub mine. It was a great system because you could get instant feedback from at least two different people.
    Eventually though, I felt the need for a smaller group. I did ACFW too. Unlike you, my group didn't move fast enough at first for me. But now it's awesome. A few people never participated and one said she could only post every other week, but it's been over six months and I haven't heard from her. We do one sub a week and right now there are two contributing members, one who sometimes does (she writes non-fic too so she's busy) and one who will when she starts her next manuscript.
    I think you'll like a partnership alot! Congrats on that. :-)

  6. Hey Jody! I am so glad you posted this! I hope we get some great advice on how to be successful. I can see how, both of being encouragers, that we might have to work on being tough! ;) I am so looking forward to a great partnership.

    BTW...I did NOT meet my goal over the weekend. Only 1200 words, not the 2000. Progress, is progress though.

  7. I started to sign up for ACFW's critique group and then didn't. But I have a writer's group I faciliate in town and that helps. THe best critiques I've gotten is from a good writer friend I know here who has met now and then with me in person and we trade out manuscripts for feedback. But it took some trust time to build. I've also shared some online with writers and I like doing that too!

  8. I belong to a crit group of five. I think how you run your group or partnership will depend on what works best for each of you. Don't be afraid to experiment, alter, try a different angle. Just keep the line of communication open to each other so you can discover a great fit for the both of you.

    For the Pearl Girls, my crit group, we rotate submissions on Monday's and Wednesday's. So each of us gets our work critiqued by the other four once every 2 and bit weeks. And we each critique two submissions each week. If life gets busy, we can bow out for a spell, or put the whole group on hold. It's very flexible for all of us.

    We submit a maximum of 15 pages (double spaced) each time. But then, on top of that, sometimes when submitting to houses, agents, we'll ask for volunteers to read the whole ms through before the deadline. That's totally voluntary, though, and if the timing works out, we take it on, otherwise no hurt feelings.

    I've done critiquing as a partner and as a group. For me, the group works better. I tend to be the type that believes everyone knows better than me, and so I have to alter my work according to their suggestions. But with a group of critiques coming in at the same time, you can see the "COMMON" comments/suggestions, and really start to see how this craft is so subjective. Now, I tend to change what COMMON recommendations I get, while being a little more restrictive of altering my work when just one of them suggests it. I study it more carefully to see if I really think it is necessary, would improve my prose, before I make the decision to change it accordingly.

    There is a HUGE danger in never finding your writing voice if you take every suggestion given. So be careful not to bend too quickly, unless of course, their suggestion gives you a lightbulb moment, then you'll know it's what you need to do.

    Remember, there's nothing saying you can't start as partners and then when others come along asking to join, pray about it, and decide then if you want to head in the form of a group.

    This is an exciting thing for the both of you. I'll be praying for you both to fine tune your critique partner etiquette (sp?) so that this is a positive experience for the both of you.

  9. Hi Jessica,
    Sounds like you've landed into a great situation! I think it does just take time to find the right fit for what works for each individual's schedule. The important thing is a willingness to work together and share honestly!

  10. Hi Sherrinda,
    Hey Crit Partner!! I totally agree! We're going to have to toughen up and figure out exactly how much torture to inflict upon each other! :) I'm hoping we can get some good advice today!

    You made good progress this weekend with 1200 words (at least that seems like good progress to me since I usually struggle to get 1500 done!). Oops! There I go encouraging you again! OK. Let me try to be tough: *Draws a blank*

    Sorry, I'll try again later! :)

  11. Hi Terri,
    You are blessed to have a local group. I think that would be every writer's dream, especially if you can actually meet face to face with a person to discuss the critiques you're making.

    I love having opportunities to go out with my friends for coffee. I would love it even better if I could go out for coffee with my writer friends!

  12. Thank you Eileen for your prayers! I agree that getting multiple critiques can be very valuable, especially when you're able to see the common problems that everyone notices. And that's true that if we take to heart every piece of advice, we may alter our writer's voice so that we can please everyone.

    I wish I had more time to reciprocate for a larger group of writers, but since that would cut into my writing, I'm thankful God's opened the door for a least some critiquing! As you mentioned, perhaps at some point, we'll have more time and energy to branch out with additional people.

    Another way I'm trying to get additional opinions on my writing is by sending it to a professional critiqe service. But more about that on tomorrow's blog post!

  13. Hi Jody,

    I'm so glad God answered your prayers about the critique partner. I think it's a lot of fun to give and receive critiques, as long as you know the person critiquing your work won't be cruel!

    My first jump into getting critiqued was last year. My partner and I set a few ground rules, the most important one being that we could walk away with no hurt feelings if it just wasn't working for us. Ultimately, we dissolved our critique partnership, but I'm glad to say we remained friends.

    I haven't found the magic formula with critique groups/partner yet. I'm a fast writer and love to critique other writers work. My group writes much slower (due to those pesky things called jobs!) and I don't want to overload them with my stuff. Unfortunately, in order for me to keep up my annual goals, I need critiques more often than anyone else.

    It's difficult to determine how much to critique at a time, also. I just finished critiquing a full-length novel (over 100K) and it was a fantastic experience, except that it seemed daunting at first and took me about six weeks to complete.

    For those writers who haven't found the right group/partner or just aren't ready to share their work yet, I'd recommend the book "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King. It's mind-blowingly good.

    Happy Writing!

  14. I haven't read through the other comments, so sorry if I repeat something here.

    The best thing I ever did was join a critique group. I joined Critique Circle where you don't have to commit to a schedule or anything. It's as relaxed or as rigid as you make it. I have made some very close friends there that now act as beta readers for me.

    I also put my work up on its own novel blog for friends and family to read - although that is usually not "critical" feedback, the feedback I get from regular, everyday readers is INVALUABLE.

    I think it's perfect that you have one critique partner, but don't get stuck in each others work. Sometimes it's essential to branch out and let different readers/betas give you feedback. Otherwise how do you know what's working and what's not with different audiences?

    You can visit Critique Circle here. If you join, I'll invite you into my forum and help you get started. It's free and you can always drop if it's not your thing. :D

  15. Hi Jill,
    What a great piece of advice about agreeing to walk away without hurt feelings if it's not working out. Even if the critique group/partner isn't long term, I think we can glean what we can and move on if we need to.

    I'm amazed when I hear how much you accomplish! I can tell you are very self-disciplined which is such an important quality for us if we ever hope to really make progress!

    Hope you can get lots done today!

  16. Hi Lady Glamis,
    Thanks for the info. about Critique Circle! I had no idea such a group existed. I will have to take a peek at it to get an idea of what it's like.

    You are really brave to post your novel on its own blog. I'm not sure I have the guts to do that!! But I totally can see how you are getting great "reader" feedback and already doing some marketing!

    And thank you for the invite! You always have such a great helpful attitude!

    Just one question for you. What is a beta? I've heard you mention that before, but I'm not sure exactly what that means!

  17. Cannot do without my crit group (Nat'l. Assn. of Women Writers). The feedback is essential, as well as the encouragement and sisterhood.

  18. Hi Angie,
    Sounds like you've been blessed!

  19. Jody, that's precisely why I haven't considered those groups or authonomy. I'd love to devote more time but in this season of my life it is a scarce commodity. Sort of a miracle in general I can write and blog and edit and query....whew... off to do dishes. (reality keeps getting in the way like that) ;)

  20. Hi T.Anne,
    I have such limited time too. Some days I feel like I'm squeezing in blogging between other things, and editing whenever I can grab a minute. And I save my real writing for early morning and late nights. I don't have a lot of time for other things. That's why I'm hoping I'll be able to handle just one crit. partner for now!

  21. i have to second what my crit partner katie on the phone! email all the time. be encouraging to each other. set weekly goals with each other and keep each other accountable! katie and i have become accountability and prayer partners, as well. we just share our requests via email...good luck to you both! its neat that you both are historical fiction writers. :) god definitely has something up, doesn't he? :)

  22. Hi Jeannie,
    Thanks for all of your great advice! I'm making a list of things to do. And hopefully we'll be able to work well together!


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