What I tell people as they consider joining an online critique group

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IMG_E2351What I did, and what I tell people as they consider joining an online critique group, is this:

(First, join one. There are a few online ones that are good and cost nothing. try them out and see which group’s rules, schedule, etc., work for you.)

THEN

1. Read a story,

and whatever you don’t like try to not just point that out but point out a suggestion to fix it. Also, point out the things you liked and emphasize those. Then,

2. Look at other people who critiqued that story

and see who was pointing out things you didn’t catch and/or who thinks along the same lines as you. Then,

3. Read stories from those people.

If they are good writers, then actively go after them to work with you.

That’s what I did.
You are not trying to find somebody to be your friend (but making a friend is a nice plus), and you are not trying to find somebody who tells you you’re great when you’re not. You’re looking for somebody who could help you get to the next level and who you can help get to the next level.
You want to support and encourage each other through constructively working on each other’s stories to make them the best they can be with the goal of both of you shooting for Hemingway quality.
You may not get that good but if that’s your goal and you fall a little short you’ll be okay.
The people you’re going to reach out to are introverts as well, so there’s that. Some won’t respond. That’s okay. The ones that reply are the ones who are interested in improving. And once you establish rapport, and you honestly put real effort into making their story better, then they will do that for you most of the time. You will benefit both from improved writing and also improving your eye for finding ways to improve other’s stories – that you can use to improve your own stories.
How do you find a group that’s right for you?
Try them. Ask for referrals from writer friends, but try the groups yourself.
How do you avoid bad information and trolls?
You can’t. There is a lot of bad information out there, but when reading critiques of your story, you’ll get a feel for who is being
  • a jerk
  • passing along strict “rules of writing” that’s not relevant or helpful
  • helpful but self important
  • helpful without being self important
  • a good writer themselves
Look for that last bunch. They’re out there, and you’ll find them quickly if you look the way I instructed you to above.

Your writing will improve within a few weeks, and after a few months you’ll be surprised at how good a writer you are!

2 thoughts on “What I tell people as they consider joining an online critique group

  1. Definitely, constructive criticism is a very useful learning tool, Dan. You are also right when you say that you can spot people you called trolls who are just being critical for the sake of it. With reviews you can often see this by looking at such people’s ratings of other books.

    Liked by 2 people

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