Saturday, March 26, 2016

Critique Groups - How to Find the Perfect One for You

Groups that meet together socially enjoy the friendships.
By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Writers search for the best ways to receive helpful feedback for their manuscripts. We all desire to develop new skills by learning from those who know the craft. Face to face meetings offer an opportunity for the writer to reach professional goals. Meeting with a select group of writers who share the same joys and challenges inspires us to continue toward our goals.

Critique partners can help us define our manuscripts. But finding the personality and expertise with other writers is like searching for a new doctor. Not everyone is a good fit. A writer seeks those special people who have the same or advanced skills. To some writers, a critique group who writes in the same genre is helpful.

Critique partners who meet in person develop trust and share social time. Online critiquing help battle the time crunch. I’ve done both and understand the advantages and —the disadvantages.

Positive feedback makes us better writers!
If a situation no longer works for whatever reason, graciously resign from your commitment. A sense of responsibility is not a reason to continue in a relationship that no longer has value.

Establish a few ground rules with a potential critique group or partner so writers understand the expectations. Each member must be committed to the group and willing to give back.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Will you and your partner(s) meet online or in a physical place?
  • How many pages will be exchanged?
  • How many writers will be in the group?
  • Will the critiques be a line edit or a content edit?
  • What will be the turnaround time?
  • How will you handle a critique partner who fails to submit her work on a consistent basis?
These guidelines will help ensure success for any critique groups. Merely tweak for the format that best suits the writers’ needs.

1.  Determine how many writers in the group.
2.  Establish a meeting place.
3.  Establish manuscript format.
  • 1 inch margins
  • Double Spacing
  • 12 point - Times New Roman or New Courier Font
  • Header with automatic page numbering
4.  Establish length of submitted manuscript.
5.  Automatically format the manuscript to number lines.
6.  Members understand the manuscript’s contents and genre.
7.  Submit polished writing as though each member is an editor.
8.  Writer brings copies of manuscript for each participant.
9.  Someone other than the writer reads the work aloud.
10. Writer is permitted two minute lead-in before work is read.
11. Writer does not speak during the reading.
12. Each writer is given 15 minutes of critique time.
13. It is inappropriate to interrupt.
14. Always thank the person who has given the critique.
15. Don’t take suggestions personally.
16. Ground rules for constructive criticism. Use the Oreo method. Begin with a       compliment, make appropriate suggestions, close the critique with encouragement. Honesty is critical, but unkind remarks are forbidden. Harshness does not make a better writer.
17. Make specific suggestions. General comments do not help the writer.
18. Address punctuation, flow, content, and credibility.
19. Critique according to writer’s ability/level of expertise.
20. Each member of the group is responsible for adhering to guidelines.
21. If a writer doesn’t submit her own writing, she shouldn’t critique other’s work.
22. Enjoy the experience! This is a time to admire and respect your peers.

I treasure the friendship of my critique partners. We pray and play together, which ensures our friendships are mentally and spiritually rewarding. 

What tips can you offer for a successful critique group?

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at


T.A.Galloway said...

I live in a rural area and the one group was closed to new members. I want to join an online group through ACFW. Any suggestions?

T.A.Galloway said...

I live in a rural area and the one group was closed to new members. I want to join an online group through ACFW. Any suggestions?

Southern-fried Fiction said...

T.A., the ACFW online groups are great! They were developed out of a member's successful experience with an online critique group. You start out in a large group, then after forming relationships, you can break off into a small group with your own online loop. There is a ton of help and I've heard nothing but positive results!

DiAnn said...

T.A., On the ACFW site, under "get connected" - There, you can find information on how to get involved with an online critique group.