Saturday, September 28, 2013

Four Helpful iUniverse Tips When Evaluating a Writing Critique Group

Novelists, like all creative people, need help to craft. We all will need others to bounce ideas off of, get feedback from, and interact with as a break from the solitary act of writing. We need credibility, insights, and advice that often doesn’t turn up from our own brains when we are too close to our own work. Critique groups can fill all of these needs. But selecting the right group for you can be difficult. Have a look at some of these iUniverse tips to help you zero-in on the best group for you.

1. Each Critique Group should comprise of more than one person. This distinction is as basic as it is necessary, since novelists benefit far more from the opinion of more people rather than just one. Hence, the ideal Critique Group to join should comprise of quite a few writers instead of just one. Further, if you are a new writer and looking to learn the writing ropes, joining a group of several beginners who are uncertain of how to proceed won't be much help to you either.

2. Verify the constitution of the Critique Group. It should include of readers with a relatively broad range of experience and background: from the aspiring writer to the published author who can assist you in evaluating your work and its impact on your target audience. The more diverse the group, the better. If at all possible, the group should include an ardent grammarian; a consummate thematic stylist; even an action-oriented, plot-craving teenage geek. It is also possible to judge your work's capacity to attract readers from outside your book genre by letting other readers with diverse literary interests critique your work. For instance, if it's not possible to get 12 different readers within your book genre to read your work, you may probably consider getting two or three experienced readers instead. Your criteria for your Critique Group should always include readers within your genre; the number of experienced authors, editors and publishers; and the likelihood of getting the equal value in terms of support and learning that you give and receive from the group.

3. Groups with healthy discussion have the added benefit of allowing more rigorous competition between ideas. You need people to debate and comment on each other's comments, so if you can't get a group together face to face or on a forum, try bouncing ideas from one online critique source to another. "So-and-so told me this. What do you think?" Good critique groups involve real critiquing--not just criticism, not just praise, but critique in which fellow group-members strive to improve your writing professionally while honing their own abilities to weed out junk from their own work. Your group-members realize that improving your writing means learning how to improve their own. Your star critic points out specific errors instead of just declaring pass or fail on your book because recognizing those errors helps her avoid them herself.

4. Your group may also provide helpful connections. Whether you are a new writer or an experienced writer picking up a new project, starting out on a new genre, or looking for a different perspective… we all need contacts within the industry. For an author interested in traditional publishing, this means you need an editor and agent. For the growing number of indie authors, you might need a freelance copy editor, book designer, cover designer, or illustrator. In any of these cases it helps to have group members who have connections that they can share with you. Therefore, one consideration in choosing a group is how much they can help with this. Do they network outside the group? Are they a group of authors with a stated goal of publication (rather than writing for other reasons)? In a group like this you can you help each other with marketing and promotions; you can inspire each other to improve just by the osmosis of brilliant writers in close contact. You can recommend freelance help or point people to inside connections or online resources.

There is little doubt that getting on the right Critique Group will certainly work to your benefit. Therefore do your best to learn about whether or not the prospective groups you are considering will provide you straightforward critique, coming form a diverse perspective with enough opportunities to network. But even more important is that you like and respect the members of the group.


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