How to find a critique group

I recently critiqued several chapters for a writer I met on Twitter. She knew it would be beneficial to join a critique group. But how, she asked, was she supposed to find one?

Lots of writers have blogged about the value of critique groups. (If you’re still not convinced you should join one, read these posts by Ami Spencer, Chip MacGregor, and Kristi Helvig.) But Ami Spencer at Write Out Loud and I wanted to take that discussion one step further. So today we’re collaborating. At Ami’s blog, you’ll find a post about how to create a critique group that works for you. And I’m going to give you hints on how to find those people.

Finding people is one of my specialties; it’s something every reporter has to do well. The challenge with finding a critique group or writers to form one is that they can’t be just any writers — they have to be good ones. Writers who are at least at your level, preferably better and more experienced than you so they’ll help you improve. And I can tell you from personal experience that good writers can be difficult to find.

Here are a few ways and places to look:

Join your local writer’s guild. Search for their Web site. My chapter, the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, has a page on their site that’s dedicated to writing groups. Yours might, too! Do any of the groups look like they’d work for you?

If not, tell them you’re starting your own group. When I first moved back home to write my book, I asked the Guild to post an ad for me, one that described the type of group I was looking to create. I got lots of e-mails from writers hoping to join. Most of those writers weren’t a good fit for me because they were in the beginning stages of learning to write. But at least I made connections and had people to choose from.

Ask at the library or bookstore. Your local library might have a group — ask a librarian. The same goes for bookstores in your area. Large bookstores like Barnes & Noble host groups, and smaller, independently-owned stores sometimes do, too.

Use social media. Facebook is probably the most useful social-media tool for this purpose because you’re likely to be friends with people who live near you. (If you’re not on Facebook, you should be.) Post a status update asking whether anyone knows of a local group. Even if your friends aren’t writers, they might have friends who are in a group. You can also search for groups or fan pages for your writing chapter or any local writer’s organizations. Even if you contacted the writing chapter through their Web site as I suggested above, it’s worth posting on their Facebook wall saying you want to form a group because some writers won’t visit the site but will stumble upon that wall.

This same strategy works on LinkedIn, although I think writer’s organizations are less likely to have a presence there.

Use Twitter, too. (Twitter’s incredibly useful for writers.) Yes, tweet that you’re looking for a group; someone might retweet your note so it makes its way to a writer near you. But you can be even more proactive by searching for tweeps who write in your area. Mashable has a helpful post on ways to find people on Twitter.

Look in online groups. Check out SheWrites, Writer’s Digest and Red Room. They’re not location-specific, but you might find someone who lives in your area. Also browse MeetUp — that’s how I found a French group to join that gets together monthly to practice speaking the language.

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