Finding a Good Critique Group

Refreshments are an essential part of all of our meetings.

What is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself this holiday season?  A really good critique group.

This isn’t the sort of thing that you can order from a catalog or even put on your Santa list.  Why?  Because good critique groups aren’t often found items.  They are something you have to build over time.

That’s how the Ladies of the Gordian Knot came into being.  Several of us (Jeanie Ransom, Stephanie Bearce, Donna Bateman and Lynnea Brumbaugh Walters) ran into each other at once local SCBWI event after another.  We got to know each other, got together outside of the various events and finally started a devoted critique group.  It wasn’t too long after we started that we invited Lynn Rubright to join forces with us.

As with all good critique groups, we share common goals.

  • We all want to improve our writing so that we can successfully seek publication.
  • We write more or less regularly.
  • We all write for children and/or young adults.
  • And we are all active SCBWI members.

In part because we know each other well, we know that we can trust the critiques that we get within the group.  Especially if someone says, in light of a recent rewrite request (cough, cough), “She said she wants it to be more fun and this just doesn’t read like your writing usually does.  This is kind of dry.”  By attending a set group on a regular basis, we’ve all come to know each others writing.  We know each others issues:  copy editing, loose plots, slapped on endings and more.  But we also know each others strengths.

Maybe its because we know the good, the bad and the ugly so well, that we are also so good at cutting through the problems and finding workable, organic solutions.  We call this cutting through the knots (thus the name of the group which Lynnea blessed us with).  When one of the ladies points 12 lines into my picture book and says, “This.  This should be the beginning.  It’s what it’s all about.  The rest is just distracting,” I don’t even think about arguing.  I can’t because it makes too much sense.  I just shake my head.  “Why the heck didn’t I think of that?”  And we share a good laugh and some good chocolate and move on to the next manuscript.

You don’t just fall into a group that works this well.  You build it from the ground up and the first step is getting to know your fellow writers.

I dare you.  You won’t regret it.

–SueBE