The total member count of any critique group will increase and decrease frequently. It’s just the nature of any situation heavy on judgement. And as some members progress to senior writers and publish their books, they may become too busy to attend regularly. If you’re a critique group leader, it’s your job to keep track of those members who come and go, and a huge part of your job is enlisting new members and making sure they feel welcome.
As was discussed last week in How to Find a Critique Group, writers seek support from other writers in a number of ways. And when they discover your group, the leader is their first interface in determining if a critique group meets their needs. So, it’s important for the group manager to represent herself in both a friendly and professional manner.
When a potential new member contacts the leader for the first time, likely through email, the inquiry will contain anything from a simple sentence asking for more information to a detailed biography of their experience along with multiple questions on how the group operates. After receiving any inquiry, it’s important to reply as quickly as possible.
To save time, have a form letter available for your reply. Below is a copy of the one in which I use to start my replies, each one modified to read more personalized and include answers to questions that were in the writer’s inquiry.
Thanks for inquiring about the Spec Fic Writers Group. We have a great bunch of writers who create anything from science fiction to traditional fantasy to dystopian to time travel and more. Our members are at all skill levels, and we are always open to new members who write speculative fiction.
Know that you will critique an average of 7000-9000 words of your peers’ submissions a week. In return, you will receive 3-5 critiques from others attending a weekly session. We upload pages for critique by noon on Sunday and complete the critiques prior to meeting on Google Hangouts video chat on Tuesday evening, where we discuss comments.
I suggest you first attend an online session with us and decide if the group and format will work for you. Providing critiques is not required during your first session.
Let me know if you’re available next Tuesday to audit a session. I’ll send you a link in an email to join around 6:00 PM that day. Do you know how to use Google Hangouts?
Providing as much information as you can about the meetings gives writers an idea of the commitment they’ll have to make. If they feel they can complete the required critiques, meet at the scheduled time, and work within the other requirements, they’ll agree to take the next step and audit a group session.
An involved critique leader will not only wait for a response, but also check in a few days later if he hasn’t receive a response about sitting in on a session. Most of us are uncomfortable attending an event alone for the first time. To then enroll in a process that involves critical feedback on a regular basis compounds the jitters times five.
Once a writers decides to audit, expect to check in with her three to five times before the critique session begins. During the meeting, your fellow critique mates will always welcome a candidate with a smile and a plethora of information. At the end, remind her to contact you if the group appears a good fit.
The Follow Up
Again, follow up…follow up…follow up. The next day, there may be a long list of questions from the candidate you’ll need to answer. Or the writer may have other groups to audit. Just know that it may take some time for full commitment to your critique group. Or maybe she’ll disappear all together. Don’t take it personally. It happens all the time.
After enlisting a new member, there are a number of things a group leader will need to do including providing guidance on submitting the first pages for critique, tips on completing critiques, and more. We won’t go into that in this post. If you need guidance in these areas, search our site or click on the All About Critique Groups category in the right column for more information.
Winnie Jean Howard is the founder of the Spec Fic Critique Group and moderates most of the critique sessions. She writes dark comical stories for all ages and has a passion for horror movies, zombies, wine, and evil in pop culture. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in Colorado where she spend her days writing and being manipulated by 2 mischievous beagles.
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