Need a Critique Group? Try a Critiquery! by Lindsay Bandy

Recently, I hosted my first Critiquery – an informal manuscript-swapping, people-meeting event. I was…nervous! I’m not the big-teacher-voice, life-of-the-party type. But I am the wordy-artsy type, and I wanted to get to know some like-minded people. I wanted to get involved in the writing life of my community. I wanted to get started with this critique group thing, because I want to become the best writer I can possibly be. And so, I was brave…..and it turned out great! Helpful comments were shared all around. Hugs were given. Future plans were made.

feather pen

If you are in an area where there aren’t critique groups readily available, or where you find yourself in need of some wordy-artsy pals to support you in your creative endeavors, I would invite you to be brave, too! Host a Critiquery, and let the magic happen! Here are a few tips to get you started…

  • Think of this as a launching pad. You don’t have to have all of the details of when, where, and how for future meetings set in stone yet. You just need a meeting place, a few copies of whatever you’re working on, and an open mind. You can talk about schedules and frequency of meetings at the Critiquery.
  • Choose a quiet place to meet. I made a wee mistake and chose a cafe that stayed busy and noisy all afternoon….so, next time we’ll meet in a library study room. You could even have it at your house (if it’s quieter than my house, which contains two small children, too many battery-operated toys, and a rather vocal cat!)
  • Get the word out! Let us know, and we’ll help. You can reach fellow SCBWI members through the blog and Facebook, and we’re here to get you connected. You can also consider putting fliers up in your local library.
  • Here are a few questions to think about ahead of time, and to talk about at your Critiquery:
     
    1. What are three things that would make a group work for you?
    2. What is one thing that would make a group NOT work for you?
    3. How often would you like to meet?
    4. How far is too far to drive?
    5. Are you open to a mixed group, or would you prefer one that is focused only on the age group you’re currently writing for?
    6. How long have you been writing/illustrating?
    7. Are you willing to lead a group? (If not, it’s okay! Just be honest.)
    8. Would you be interested in combining in-person meetings with online feedback, especially during winter months? If so, we’ll work on a secure method of setting this up.
  • How are you all progressing on your current projects? This becomes important when you think about how to set up future meetings. Are you still in the brainstorming/first drafting stage, or do you have a complete piece ready for overall feedback? Check out this article by Beth Bernobich on Alpha and Beta readers to get your creative juices flowing….http://www.beth-bernobich.com/Essays/AlphaBeta.htm
  • Set up Dropbox. It’s free, and then you can all have access to future submissions from the group beforehand. Oh, and it’s good for backing up your work, in case your computer spontaneously combusts.

Hope this inspires you to get out there and make new friends, get more feedback, and get your work rising to the next level. I’m so excited about everything that’s happening in Eastern PA SCBWI right now, and it’s up to all of us to keep the momentum going!

Happy critiquing!

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4 Responses to Need a Critique Group? Try a Critiquery! by Lindsay Bandy

  1. Super idea, Lindsay! Good for people who are scared of commitment, lol. Did you know in advance if anyone would show up? I’m guessing there had to be some sort of RSVP so you would know how many copies to have.

  2. Thanks, Wendy! Yes, we did an RSVP about a week before. We had an amazing response of 16 people, so we got into smaller groups and each exchanged 4 copies of up to 4 pages. And yes, it’s a great way to get a feel for other writers’ styles before committing to a long-term relationship. 😉

  3. Carol says:

    I have tried several times and can never find anyone in my area 😦 (Williamsport)

    • Hey Carol, I tried a few different avenues before this, unsuccessfully, as well. I live kind of in the middle of nowhere, so I chose a meeting place that was more central to people in my county, which seemed to work well (about a half hour from my house). So, maybe something like that would help you to find people that are willing to make a little bit of a drive to meet somewhere centrally. Or, there has been talk of online groups….if you’re interested, you could check in with Laura Lashley on that front. Best of luck to you!

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