Getting together with a group of writers can be professionally and emotionally rewarding. If you can’t find a critique group, you might consider starting one of your own.
The Porterville Writer’s Workshop has existed for decades in a variety of forms, and although we recognize that our experiences may not be appropriate for you, this is how our group was formed and how it continues today. Please take what works for you and ignore the rest.
We began as a creative writing class at our local community college which is a good place to find writers when you start your group. You could also write a letter to the editor asking if anyone is interested in a critique group or ask your local librarian to post a message. Once you have interested writers, you can begin.
1. Select a leader. The key here is leader not dictator. Someone needs to set a cooperative and nurturing environment. Writers should feel they are being heard and helped.
2. Set a specific time agreed upon by the members and try to be consistent.
3. Encourage fiction and nonfiction work in many genres.
4. Keep the group small. We have seven members, five of whom have been published. Everyone is working on a novel so if each of us reads a chapter that takes several hours. If your group becomes too large, you might want to split into two or more groups based on individual preferences.
5. Ask writers to make a copy of their work for each member. Small corrections like punctuation can be written on the manuscript and not discussed. Oral comments should be limited to asking questions, discussing possible changes, and most importantly, praise.
6. Discourage members from talking about what they are going to write. Often by discussing the work, the need to communicate is fulfilled and nothing is written.
7. Discourage members from apologizing for their work. Let the writing speak for itself.
8. Encourage members to come to the meeting to critique even if they don’t have anything to read.
9. When new writers want to join, we invite them to the first meeting at the beginning of the month, but not the other three weekly meetings. We don’t want to be exclusive, but we do want to make certain any addition to our group is a serious writer. Often we invite the new writer to become a regular member.
1 Agree that whatever comments are made by individuals, the writer is free to take what he/she wants and ignore the rest.
Finding a critique group is almost like trying to find a spouse, but when you find the right one, it’s wonderful. Every Wednesday I meet with my fellow writers and we share our work, our laughter and our friendship.