How Critique Groups Make You A Better Writer
The biggest struggle I have as a writer is my grammar. I grew up in rural Maine, surrounded by some amazing storytellers. We have our own way of speaking up here. Thick accents and “DownEast” vernacular is one of my favorite things about being a Mainah! However, it’s hard to overcome my grammatical habits in my writing.
It was a roadblock I had for a long time. I felt like an illustrator with some good ideas for books but not a real writer. I was scared to show my work and felt stagnant in my process. I knew I wanted to self-publish but that didn’t mean I wanted to do this all alone. I really needed some help.
How to Find a Writers Critique Group
I started by looking for resources for Children’s Book Authors and came across the “Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators” or SCBWI. https://www.scbwi.org/ I became a member (annual fee of $80 per year.) First I read their big giant manual for tips on how to be a successful writer. One point I came across, again and again, was “Join a Writers Critique Group.” Lucky for me SCBWI offers a directory of Critique Groups and I found one in my area.
Face to Face
You can also start your own! Give a shoutout on Facebook and see who else in your network or friends of friends are also looking to jump-start their writing journeys. You can even have a private facebook group to bounce around ideas when you are in between meet-ups.
Inquire at a local bookstore about writers workshops or ask if you can post an ad for a critique group. This could also be a great meeting place for your group.
Here are a couple of online critique groups if this is your method of choice. These online resources are great options for writers who live in rural areas.
- The Desk Drawer Email based writing workshop, (larger groups)
- Inked Voices Find a small online group or workshop
- Critique Circle – You earn critique “credits” based on how many other manuscripts you review.
Whatever plane, train or automobile you choose, just make sure you find your tribe of fellow writers.
When I joined a writers critique group, my perspective, and my craft completely changed. Our group built a supportive relationship based on our common interest and goals of writing children’s stories. It was a relationship built on trust. We would show each other our work in its most vulnerable state and receive honest feedback and critiques. Everybody had their own unique strengths and weaknesses. My weaknesses were VERY clear. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling. At first, I tried to argue that “This is just how I talk!!!” “Language is always evolving!” or even “Proper grammar is just plain classist!” These were all just excuses I made out of insecurity. Over time, the group made me view things through a new lens. Instead of seeing grammar as a set of rules I had to follow, I started to see grammar as a set of tools that I could use to add more character and expression to my writing.
Achieve Your Goals
All the positive reinforcement I received from the group pushed me further to learn more. I read books on the craft of writing and even started listening to the AMAZING podcast Grammar Girl! For additional guidance, I use the app Grammarly to help me edit my work in real time.
The chain reaction of joining the critique group, asking for help when I needed it and utilizing additional free or low-cost services gave me the confidence and the motivation to self-publish three children’s books in one year. And now I truly consider myself a writer.
Join a Critique Group!!!
I can’t stress this enough. Join a writers critique group! They help you identify your blind spots, give you support, hold you accountable and overall, improve your writing craft.
I know, the idea of leaving the house and meeting new people can be kind of scary. But like so many things in life ahem… cough… GRAMMAR… Once you learn a little more about them, the less scary they seem. But please, don’t ever be afraid to ask for a little help.