If you’re interested in writing/illustrating for children (or anyone), I hope you’ll consider joining a critique group. I’ve already addressed WHY I recommend them and HOW to find one, but today I’ll talk about the WHO, WHERE & WHENs of Critique Groups.
Who is Included in Critique Groups
Some of the things you’ll want to consider when either starting a new group or joining an existing one is who is/will be included in the group. Is the group for writers, illustrators, writer-illustrators or all? What genre do members write/illustrate (board books, picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, new adult, poetry, non-fiction, portfolios, book dummies or any combination of these)? How many participants are there/do you want in your group (there are advantages to both smaller and larger groups)? You may also want to consider members’ experience and career direction. For example, do you want to form/join a group of beginner, intermediate, experienced, or published writers/illustrators or a combination? Do you want the group to include those who are pursuing traditional or self-publishing? Do you want your group to include only those serious about writing/illustrating or do you welcome hobbiests? If you are “group shopping” you’ll want to look at the description of each group and decide which of these things are important to you.
Where to Hold Critique Groups
If you prefer, or welcome the opportunity, to work with an on-line group, you’ll be able to connect with others from far and wide. You can exchange critiques via google docs, drop box, email, etc. If you prefer an in-person group, you’ll need locate one in your area (see my HOW article for tips) or start your own. If you form one of your own, you’ll need to advertise a general area and a meeting place (I suggest a public place such as a local library, book store, coffee shop, etc.). You can stick to the same meeting place each time or rotate locations. You can also use a combination of on-line and in-person meetings. Your SCBWI Regional Chapter can help you advertise.
When to Hold Critique Group Meetings
You’ll want to consider your schedule and availability when deciding the frequency of exchanging manuscripts and holding meetings. Some groups meet weekdays, weekday evenings, or weekends. Some meet once per month, twice per month or every other month. Some meet on the same day per cycle (for example, the second Tuesday of each month) and others base each meeting on the schedules of its members. When looking for an established group, ask the group leader (if it’s not already listed on an advertised site) when the group meets so you can see if it fits with your schedule. You may want to establish some rules, whether they be strict or loose guidelines. For example, is everyone permitted to submit at/before each meeting or will each take turns? Will there be a deadline of when to submit before each meeting? Consider how much work you produce and how much time you can devote to critiquing others’ manuscripts/art work and what balance will work for you.
Next time I’ll address some “what” questions about critique groups. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below. What other things are important to you when considering the who, when, and where of critique groups?
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Heather is a busy wife and mom of five rambunctious children and one lovable pup They all provide lots of distractions, but oodles of inspiration. Sometimes the pictures and ideas in her head turn into her own children's stories, but she always makes time to read other people's books. Sometimes she reviews them here.