Critique groups fall into several broad categories:
- Neighborhood writing groups for all genres
- Urban writing groups in a specific genre
- Genre-specific groups sponsored by a larger writer’s association (like Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers located in Colorado). A membership fee is required.
- Ad hoc groups of genre-specific writers that expanded via the Internet
- National or international writing groups with hundreds or thousands of writers. The Internet development and management costs require a fee.
Which category suits a given writer is a personal decision. Many writers enjoy a face-to-face interaction. Some writers like to keep critiques at an arms length and not be on any schedule. However, the most friendly and tailored critiques come from smaller groups with face-to-face contact (in person or video conference). A new writer should look for a group with a few experienced writers in the mix.
The procedures of a critique group are also important. A traditional group might function by sitting at a table and sharing printed copies of work that needs to be critiqued. The author reads aloud the work they want reviewed. Then they make notes as the other members provide verbal comments. The addition of coffee and cookies is a nice upgrade.
A more computer-centric online group might use video conferencing, advanced document editing (like Google Docs) and email communications. You can watch the other members sip their coffee on your home computer screen.
A very large critique organization might simply pass documents via email and use central score-keeping to match the numbers of critiques done with the number received. You might never see the other members of the group or what they drink. Coffee, orange juice, whiskey — whatever.
A rule of critique is that the principles of good writing apply to all genres: non-fiction or fiction, history or time travel. With persistence and concentration a critiquer can critique anything.
BUT for most writers, the fun is critiquing within your own genre. Strongly consider joining a genre-specific group if available. If not, a little diversity will make your own writing better.
Here is a list of some genre-specific critique groups:
- Adult Fiction
- Comics & Graphic novels
- Kids Books & Young Adult
- Mainstream and Literary Fiction
- Music and Audio
- Mystery, Thriller, and Adventure
- Script, Screenplay, and Stage Play
- Testing and Experimenting
- Video and Film
- Website Design
- Western Fiction
Whatever group you choose, be a good participant. Contribute regularly, critique regularly, be courteous and always point out what other writers do well. Although you might write in one genre, be sure to read things outside your genre to keep your own writing fresh.
R. C. Beckett was given a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazines as a teenager and read hundreds of the stories — he was hooked and started writing fiction in 2013. He loves to write hard science fiction, but can’t help adding a bit of humor. Publications: “Exit Mars” and “Exit Earth” (available on Amazon). “Exit Pluto”, the third in the Exit series, should be published in late 2020. He lives in Golden Colorado and is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Walking his dog is key to his writing since that’s when he imagines plots for his stories. He also volunteers as a webmaster for non-profit companies including SpecFicWriters.