Critique Groups: Genre-Based or Not?
In The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, I talk about various “kinds” of groups a writer can join or start for themselves. One of these kinds of groups is a genre-based group. By this, I mean that everybody in the group is writing the same kind of material—whether that be fiction, memoir, how-to, or poetry.
Do I think a genre-based group is a good way to go? Sure. Do I think it’s absolutely necessary? No.
The bottom line of any good critique group is that the various members are supportive, respectful, and constructive. That last criteria means that the members do truly help each other dig deeply into writing projects and make serious, substantive changes. If you know a set of writers who you believe can help you do this and for whom you think you can return the service, then grab then, set up a place and time, and start critiquing.
If, however, you’re looking for a new group or setting out to build your own group, and two or three writers’ names aren’t just springing to mind, consider making your group genre-specific. Here are some of the benefits:
- If you’re looking for an online group, it may be easier to find one that is genre-based. National and regional associations like SCBWI or RWA often have resources for finding a group or posting about one you’re building. These groups are usually made up of writers working in one genre.
- Every writer in the group will be reading in that genre. (If they’re not, they’d better get started.) You’ll all be more aware and more educated about what is being published and what makes a strong well-written mystery, or romance novel, or picture book. Or whatever form it is that you’re writing.
- As you critique, you’ll not only help the other writers in your group, but you’ll learn from your own critiquing—about your genre.
- You can share information about agents and editors. You’ll all be doing your publishing research and education in the same areas–you can talk about articles you’ve read, pass on who might be a good person to follow on Twitter or Facebook, and discuss who’s going to be accepting pitches at what conference.
- You can consider, as you get closer to submitting and (hopefully!) being published, setting up a group blog. Group blogs are often genre-based, and sharing the posting cycle can take some of the load off your individual shoulders. Watch this carefully, though. If you sense at all that sharing a blog may threaten the cohesiveness or productivity of your critique group, consider whether this is a step to take together, or separately.
Now remember, the most important thing about a critique group is that you feel your writing is growing and that you are learning from the critique process. It’s more than possible to achieve this with several writers working in different genres. My current critique groups are a mix. One writer also does MG and YA. Another has two mystery series in publication. Another has worked on “grown-up” mysteries, as did I for many years. She’s now working on a nonfiction book, and they just critique the Survival Guide for me over the past few months. I wouldn’t trade these critiquers for anything.