I must admit that I am not currently part of a writing critique group, although I did participate in one several years ago.
A part of me thinks I should invest some time in finding a suitable group, but another part says my life is far too busy at the moment to physically attend one.
Is there an alternative? A way to enjoy the benefits of a writing group without ever leaving the house?
In the past few months, I’ve found several online venues that help people do just that.
When literary agent Nathan Bransford created writing forums through his blog, I was quick to join. Hundreds of writers interact there to discuss all things writing, publishing, feedback and finding agents.
These sites are not merely venues for aspiring writers to post stories or novel excerpts. Rather, they help writers accomplish a number of tasks which help bring them closer to having their work published.
Online forums and critique circles can help you:
Find a critique partner
Connect with another writer and swap your works-in-progress. Help one another identify strengths and weaknesses in your prose, spot logic holes and inconsistencies, offer suggestions for improvement, or simply offer to proofread.
Try to find someone who reads or writes extensively in the same genre. For example, I write mainstream/literary, so I wouldn’t have much to offer a writer of science fiction or fantasy.
If you’d prefer to share only a short excerpt of your work, there are opportunities to have it critiqued by multiple contributors.
Get feedback on your queries
Queries are the bane of every writer’s existence. How does one go about boiling down a 300 page novel into just a couple of paragraphs?
The biggest problem with writing a query is that you know your story so well, it’s easy to leave out crucial information. Sharing your query with other writers can help you iron out any problems in communicating your story to a literary agent.
Discuss particular problems
If you find yourself stumped over a plotting problem or character issue, a quick post on an online forum can provide you with a number of different perspectives from other writers.
I once posted about an issue I had with the structure of my own work-in-progress, and soon received several replies with advice, and relevant reading recommendations.
Find moral support
There will be days you’ll want to give up. Days you’ll think you’re no good.
When you’re feeling down, it’s always comforting to be able to reach out to others. But, your non-writer friends and family members aren’t likely to understand your plight, try as they might.
An online writing group connects you to others going through the same things, whether it be something tangible, like a rejection letter, or intangible, like lack of confidence.
Is there a catch?
As with any group in which you share your writing, there are always words of warning:
- Take feedback with a grain of salt. Not every piece of advice you get will be good, so use your best judgment.
- Express your thanks for any critique you receive, even if you don’t like what the person has said. If someone offers you constructive criticism and you become defensive, others won’t be eager to help you in the future.
- You have to give first to receive. Don’t just turn up, post your work, and expect a free handout. Give feedback to several other writers before you ask for feedback on your own work.
- Watch what you write. Words can appear much different on the page than when they are spoken. Always give positive feedback before criticism.
Are you part of either a physical or virtual writing support group?
What other online venues can you recommend to writers seeking interactive communities?
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