As writers, one of the best tools we can have is a good critique group. This is a unit of individuals with a similar goal—the publication of their work. Ideally, a critique group should meet either in person or in an online venue on a certain schedule. All members should be ready to identify and suggest changes to the chapters others have submitted for review.
How does this assist the writer in their path to publication?
We all covet the contract from a publisher. It’s a sign that we’ve been accepted into what we all consider the writing stratosphere. Very few writers will take their first draft and submit that for publication. First, this is something you should never do. A first draft must rest, ferment in fact, before it’s ready to be edited. Your next step should be to go through what you’ve written slowly, seeking continuity, spelling and grammar errors, and ensuring your content is good. Finally, you’re ready to share your novel with your critique group.
What should you expect from a critique group?
These readers are professional writers, much like you are. They should be looking for missing words, misspelled words, continuity issues, and checking to see if the content is aligned with the story. What they should not be doing is giving you a review of the work. A poor critiquer will insert commentary such as “boring,” “dumb,” or “needs rework.” The person giving a critique should always explain why they feel dialogue or narrative won’t work and what you need to do to improve your work.
Another thing a critique partner should never do not provide an analysis of your book after promising to do so. This is especially true if you have taken the time to give them an in-depth analysis of their work and are awaiting their commentary to improve what you’ve done.
Finding a good critique group is much like purchasing a house or new car. The first one you locate isn’t always what you want. In fact, it might take quite a while to locate a group that is a good fit for you and your work. The internet abounds with these groups, but it’s very much a writer beware situation. Always audition the group first, by asking pertinent questions—such as how often are you allowed to submit your work for critique (some groups allow a weekly submission from everyone, or twice a month. Others only allow members to submit work for critique after they’ve done an analysis of the current members. Still others have a set schedule for person A to submit one week, person B another week, etc.).
One place on the internet where you can find critique groups is within Yahoo groups. There are many listed, so take your time locating the right one for you.