I touched on this briefly a few months ago. I’m not sure it sunk in. Of course I realize that not everyone I encounter on every writer-related website, discussion group, or social media feed is a regular reader of my blog. But I like to think they are. And I still field questions from writers asking if there is any place where they could, maybe, get a little feedback on their writing.
The level of ignorance being perpetuated is as astonishing as it is disheartening.
In one group a popular discussion started with the question:
Does anyone know of a “share site” or group where we can gather and share our stories to see if they are viable?
The question is perfectly valid. Here is a new writer seeking to expand her awareness of the writing community. She, quite naturally, gravitates toward the notion of a group of writers who swap their stories and offer constructive feedback. What shocked me were the responses.
The most common suggestions were LinkedIn and Facebook.
Linkedin is a button-up social network for career management. There are discussion groups there, for sharing concepts and posting relevant articles, but posts are limited to 450 words. How much of your novel can you get feedback on in 450-word bites? And where is the mechanism for inviting critiques and analyzing feedback? And where is the motivation to give feedback? Facebook isn’t much better. LinkedIn and Facebook are like trying to construct a house with Tinker Toys.
One “expert” fella posted this gem (the origianal poster is a children’s writer):
Seriously doubt you can get valid comments from other adults … Suggest you beta test concepts with a group of children.
Because 8-year-olds are going to be able to coach you on your pacing, emotional arc, and key plot points. Another respondent recommended asking “friends, family, kid’s teachers/babysitters.” Worst. Advice. Ever.
This is a writer’s group. A group of writers. Who presumably write. How do they not know about critique groups and critique partners? Clearly none of these people are reading my blog.
I helpfully pointed out local face-to-face groups and Ciritique Circle and Agent Query Connect. But, honestly, these are a first step. The bare minimum anyone should do before attempting to put their writing “out there.” If you are serious what you want is a critique partner. Or three. CPs are the next evolutionary step on the ladder to getting published. What a dedicated, organized, and active critique group is to “asking your mom” to read your manuscript, a CP is to a critique group. Groups are essential, but they can be flakey. You have to commit to meeting every week or every other week, and you may find yourself surrounded by writers who simply don’t enjoy or “get” your particular genre or age group. Surely, you can find romance groups and sci-if groups, but what if you are writing children’s historical fantasy? You may be spending your weeks fielding advice from people who are not your audience and have little or no experience with books like yours.
But a critique partner? The idea is to locate individuals who specialize in just the kind of thing you write. Then swap manuscripts and keep each other on target. Writer besties. Someone who gets you, and who’s book you also love.
But were would one go to find such a unicorn? See, this is why everyone should be reading this blog. Invite your friends.
Here are some links. Get clickin’.
Critique Partner Matchup. This Google Group has listings for 9 different genres/categories, including YA sci-fi fantasy, MG, poetry, romance, and adult contemporary.
Romance Writers of America offer their own critique partner matchup.
Agent Query Connect has multiple listings for CPs in various genres in their Wanted Ads forum.
Ladies Who Critique is a site set up specifically to make CP matches, broken down by popular age groups and genres. Men-folk also welcome.
The Write Life posted a piece titled, “40 Places to Find a Critique Partner Who Will Help You Improve Your Writing.”
Finally, keep an ear to the ground by way of Twitter; #CPMatch is a thing and it happens a couple times a year. During the Twitter party you pitch your book and browse the feed for others who you think might make a good CP match. Follow Megan Lally for details, or get it straight from her blog.