Rendezvous member Alison McBain wrote this post about the value of finding a writing group and how to go about finding one. I know this is something people ask me about all the time, so I hope this will give you some ideas for how to go about it.
Writers’ groups can be a touchy subject, since writing can be a very personal task. It’s hard to offer up your words to others for critique – sometimes receiving feedback can feel like a personal attack.
But here’s the thing — writers’ groups are filled with, well, writers. People just like you, who want to help you be the best writer you can be, and who expect the same from you. They’re your cheerleaders who can see where the ideas you wanted to convey in your book didn’t move out from your head and onto the page. And they can help you immensely in your journey to make the transition from a writer who’s just scribbling in a journal to a published author with a byline.
Also, if your goal is to be published, just think — people will be reading your writing. Many, many people, especially if you’re successful. And don’t you want your work to be the absolute best it can possibly be? Better to catch your mistakes before you go to print, in a circle of peers who wish you nothing but the best.
While it isn’t always easy to hear your words get picked apart by your well-intentioned peers, I have to say that I’ve learned an amazing amount from my fellow writers, and I’ve also made some lifelong friends through writing groups.
Even before the pandemic, online critique sites were a useful tool for many writers. I know that when I first started out, my kids were young and I could only write — and get critiqued — when they were sleeping. Which meant that most other people were sleeping, too. I needed a way to get my words critiqued by others, but couldn’t do it with a live or in-person group.
There are a number of secure sites that allow you to post your writing and have other members read and comment on it on your own schedule. All of these groups that I’ve listed are ones that I’ve been a member of, although some of them I’m no longer active in. I’m also not getting paid to promote any of these — they’re just helpful groups I’ve run across. Unless noted otherwise, all of these are free to join but require you to register to be a member.
CODEX is a group is for speculative fiction writers with at least one professional sale. It’s a great place to find critique partners and hear about publishing opportunities directly from editors and other writers.
Critique Circle is a feedback site that allows authors to post and critique each other’s works. Open to most genres.
The Critters Workshop, also listed as Critters.org is a speculative fiction critique group that has been active for over 25 years.
While not a group per se, Reddit has a gazillion threads about writing and writing advice. However, since they’re open to everyone, it might be easy to get confused by conflicting pieces of advice that you find there. The good news is that there are threads with the specific goal of finding critique partners in different genres.
Scribophile is by far the best and most comprehensive online writing site I’ve found— it has professional and amateur writers of all genres, posting and exchanging critiques, plus a forums section where you can ask specific or general questions about writing and get a fast response from the community.
If you’d prefer in-person or virtual groups, there are a number of groups for that, too. Several of these groups are free but might require registration to sign up.
Meetup is an online site to find other people who share the same interests as you, and who want to get together to engage in those interests. It has much more than just writing groups, but it does have a “writing” tab where you can find critique groups that are both local and online.
I run two critique groups on Meetup — a weekly local fiction writing group called Fairfield Scribes and a monthly online group open to everyone called The Poets’ Salon.
Depending on what genre you write, there are specific national/international organizations that have local chapters of groups that meet regularly. Most of these require paid annual memberships, but some of them have resources that you can use for free. Most of them are open to international members too.
Alliance of Independent Authors
British Science Fiction Association
The Horror Writers Association
Science Fiction Writers of America
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Women’s Fiction Writers Association
The website Writers’ Relief has a good list of additional genre-specific writing organizations.
Never underestimate the power of your local library! Many of them run writers’ groups, both in-person and online. Check out their calendars and see if there are any open groups in your area. If not, many libraries would be enthused if you’d like to start your own group, and they’ll even help you to do so. That’s how I started my poetry group — with a fellow poet and I reached out to our local library, and they helped us set up and promote our group through their network. In addition, they invited our group to their annual writers’ conference to talk about and lead workshops on poetry, so it ended up being a win-win for us, the library, and the poetry community in general.
I’ll leave you with a final reason to join a critique group: it’s one of the best ways to make contacts and find opportunities that you’d never know about otherwise. Almost all of my successes have been found through word-of-mouth — meeting someone who was several steps ahead of me in their author’s journey, and able to give me great advice about what I should try next.
The most lasting takeaway I can share from my own author’s journey is that the community that you’ll find through joining writing groups is an amazing and helpful one. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if it wasn’t for the amazing groups I’ve found, both online and in-person. It’s well worth it to jump right in.
Alison McBain writes fiction & poetry, edits & reviews books, and pens a webcomic about parenting called “Toddler Times.” You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.