Critique Partners–Why Start with One?
In The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, I talk about ways to find a critique group and ways to start your own. There are lots of reasons why you might build your own group–from not finding an existing group that works for you to wanting just a little bit more control over how your group is run.
If you’re setting out to grow a critique group, I really recommend starting small–with one critique partner. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.
- It’s often easier (and faster) to find one other writer who’s looking to critique, than it is to find several all at once.
- Building a critique group is a little bit like cooking. if you throw all the spices into the pot at once, it’s hard to tell–if the recipe doesn’t taste right–which spice might be the problem. If you get together with three or four other writers/critiquers at the same time, and the group is having some problems, it may be tricky to figure out which critiquers you fit with and which you don’t.
- To carry on the cooking metaphor, once you’ve tossed in all those spices, it’s a little tricky to pull out the one that makes the recipe too bitter, or even too sweet. 🙂 Ditto with a critique group, if you invite several writers all at once, and one doesn’t click with another, you have some not easy choices to make and actions to take. If you and a critique partner aren’t a match, it’s simpler to back up and both start over on your hunts.
- With one critique partner, you can test things out. You can more easily see what works for the both of you, from things as basic as what time to meet to deciding what to do when you don’t have anything to critique (Hint: You could always write!). You can set the group up so that the two of you are happy, then add another member.
- You get a chance to find that one, at least, critique partner who is your dream. From then on, you have a core group. My “rule” is that, once you have a core group that works–whether that core is two critiquers, or three, or four–that core is what matters. If you interview a new writer and one of the core members isn’t comfortable with them, the new writer isn’t invited to join. If you add someone to the group, and one of the core members has a (consistently bad) problem with their critiques, the group talks to the new member about troubleshooting and, if necessary, asks them to leave. Again, starting with one good critique partner lets you establish this core.
Of course, the next question is, where do you find this critique partner. Well, the same places you look for a group–in writing clubs, at conferences, by posting on craigslist or at the bookstore, and online. I’m not saying it’ll be an easy search, but I do believe your writing is worth it.