Can I Get Back Good Feedback From Critique Groups?
Choosing a writing critique group may have been one of the most important things I did in my writing process towards becoming published by a traditional publisher. There were important factors that involved me getting to that point: finding a professional and organized writing society, attending writing conferences and workshops, and finally choosing a critique group that gave substantive feedback.
My YA zombie novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher, went through many, many revisions before it was polished enough to submit to literary agents and finding a home with a publisher thanks to my critique group. Now that I’m a critique group director, there are a few quick tips that I’d like to share to help others find a critique group that can help them polish their writing-in-progress, or if not published, become a published author.
As I previously noted, first, and foremost, search for a good writing club or society. What constitutes a good writing society? Their service to writers is an important start. Find one that provides free workshops or instructional meetings, provides opportunities for meet-and-greets with published authors and literary businesses, and one that attends writing conferences and book fairs, that with a membership, allows free access. If the society or organization is not a non-profit business, and/or charges for everything, beware.
If you live in a small town and there are no writing clubs or societies, fret not. Critique groups are everywhere, including online! What make a good critique group? In my humble opinion, it depends on how it is run. One you find a critique group, try to audit one, or preferably, two of their meetings. While in attendance, watch for how members interact with each other. Are the critiques very generalized or do the members go into structure, plot, characterization, writing style, suggestions for improvement, and even substantive editing tips, as well as, grammatical suggestions? Do they speak with professionalism and respect to the author’s writing or is it very informal?
Personally, being that I taught Language Arts for thirteen years, I prefer the,“Speak what works best first, then SUGGEST what improvements can be made, last.” As opposed to saying all the negative first, and then continue with everything that’s wrong without giving ideas to what can be done, or even worse, giving direct criticism and then telling the writer what they should write. That is not only counter-productive but does not support a safe environment for the writer’s story to reach it’s potential.
Lastly, ask the critique group leader if they have guidelines for giving critiques. If none are provided or have never been thought of, that is a red flag, that the critique group is more of a book club than a critique group that fosters published authors. The same thing applies to online critique groups. The moderator with clear and organized guidelines within a group of writers who all have a passion in your genre will probably work best for you.
Good luck with your search, and if you have any questions regarding critique groups, feel free to email me at aantoniohall.com.
About Ace Antonio Hall
Ace Antonio Hall is the author of the novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher (Montag Press, April 2013). His short stories They and Raising Mary: Frankenstein have been awarded Honorable Mention for the Writers of the Future Awards 2013 and 2014. He published his short story Dead Chick Walking in Calliope Magazine Fall 2013 #141.
In 2015, Hall has sold his short stories to be published with Weasel Press/The Haunted Traveler, Bride of Chaos/9 Tales, Pure Fantasy & Science Fiction, Vol. 4, Jitter/Prolific Press, Calliope Magazine, and Night to Dawn Magazine #29.
Hall received a BFA from Long Island University and taught English for more than a decade. He is a native New Yorker who now resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Follow Sylva's Journey on Twitter @sylvaslasher