Monday, January 01, 2018

Are You Looking for a Critique Group or Partner?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

It's Crit Time Again!

Back in 2013 I started a Yahoo Group called "Janice Hardy's Critique Connection" to help writers connect with like-minded folks looking for critique groups or partners. It was designed to help people find long-term, quality writing partners, not just places you can toss up your work and get quick feedback.

It went from a one-time thing to annually, and now to every six months (I open it up every January and July). If you're looking to join or create a group, add more to your existing group, or find a critique partner, odds are you'll find someone here.

Just to be clear, I'm not personally critiquing anything in this group. This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just "I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent" type critiques. I'm solely a facilitator to help people connect without having to post their email addresses online, which some folks are hesitant to do.

How This Works

If you'd like to join the Yahoo group, simply email me at janice @ janicehardy . com, and briefly tell me what you write and what you're looking for (group or a partner). For example, "I write science fiction and fantasy for teens and I'm looking for a critique group or a few partners to swap manuscripts with." I'll send you an invitation to the group and add your information to the master list of members. You'll join and send a hello email, start talking to others and see who writes what and what everyone is looking for.

There's a master list of members and what they write in the "Files" section, and I update that daily as new people join and send me their information. Since the list has gotten huge over the years, there's now a "Past Members" list, and it's okay to look there as well if you don't see a good match on this year's list. You can always ask if a past member is still looking.

This is all private and by invitation only, so random folks googling "crit groups" won't be barging in or anything. You can come and go as you please. Once you find fellow writers to work with, feel free to drop the group if you'd like. It might take a few days for people to sign up, so if it's quiet when you first join, be patient and more will appear. The first week or two is usually busy, and it slows down by week three as everyone matches up. It's always available for members (I don't close it), but it's usually only busy during January and July.

(Here's more on finding the right critique partner)

Interested in Starting Your Own Group?

One of the tougher parts of creating critique groups (aside from finding people to join) is finding a place to host it. Unless everyone is local, there's no central place for people to share their work.

I've had great luck with Yahoo Groups for this. I've been in three different critique groups using this service, and it makes it a lot easier. You can invite people to join, have a forum and a site to upload work and critiques, and email the group as a whole. Everything is private and you can control who joins.

Ideally, people will join the Critique Connection group, hang out and meet compatible writers, then break off and form their own Yahoo group. It's easy peasy to create one, and people can even leave a description of their group on the CC site if they're looking for more members. Of course, they're free to meet up however works for them as well. Partners could just email each other, for example.

(Here's more on the benefits of a good critique group)

Critique Commitments

If you've never been in a critique group before, it's good to know that there are commitments to be made. Each group sets its own rules, but for a group to work and run well, people need to adhere to those rules. For example, I've had groups that turned in X-words every X weeks for works in progress, and groups that read whole projects at once over a predetermined time frame depending on the size of the project (five days for short stories, three to five weeks on novels).

It's not a bad idea to think about what you want and how much time you can spend. A hard-core group that wants to submit a chapter a week won't work for someone who wants a once-a-month schedule. People looking for plotting and story development help for first drafts want different things than writers looking to polish finished drafts.

(Here's more on getting the most out of a critique)

Plus, quality critiques take time. If it takes you two hours to critique a chapter, and your five-person group submits a chapter each every two weeks, that's twenty hours a month for the group. If that's a commitment you can't make, that's not the right group for you (and there's nothing wrong with that, everyone has different needs and available time).

(Here's more on putting feedback to good use)

Going in prepared increases your chances of success.

So that's the deal. Anyone who'd like to find some fellow critiquers can let me know.


  1. So, I have to ask: with all the not-so-good news about Yahoo! recently, are you still comfortable using them? (Seems like a general question, so asking it here instead of by mail.)
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. No site is fully secure, so information IS going to get stolen from somewhere. Target, Home Depot, Yahoo, Google, they've all been hit in the last several years. The best way to protect ourselves is to use multiple passwords and accounts for different levels of security. For example, don't use your bank password as the password on a free forum site. Make sure that if someone gets your info, they have zero access to anything valuable, such as financial passwords or credit card info.

      Yahoo's breach was also three or four years ago, so I'd imagine the problem has been fixed for a while now. They just took a long time to tell anyone about it.

      All my email is still with Yahoo, I'm still using them. I protect myself to the best of my ability. I don't see an issue with using their group service.

      But if someone feels uncomfortable, I'd suggest creating a throwaway email address (like on Yahoo), and only use it for the group (or free sites that are likely to get hacked).

    2. Thanks for the reply, Janice. A reasonable approach.

  2. Thanks Janice. A great idea, especially as not everyone is on Facebook (yet!). And you're right about nothing online being infallible.

  3. Hi Janice, I have finished my first mystery manuscript, have been self-editing it,and I'd love to have a critique partner or small group. How do I get signed up?

    1. Just send me an email with what you write and what you're looking for and I'll send you an invitation to join the group.

  4. I signed up last year, but my three partners died, not literally, on me after about three months. Probably partly my fault for not pushing harder. But I'm still keen, still committed and write Dystopian thrillers and grim fantasy short stories. Do i need to resign.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear that. It does happen, though, and it took me several tries before I found good groups and partners myself.

      You should still be a part of the group unless you went in and quit on the site. I don't remove anyone unless they send me an email asking to be removed (and most folks just do it themselves).

  5. Thank you, Janice! I'm working on the second revision of my first nonfiction book and wondered where I could find persons to critique it! This is a great idea and beneficial to everyone!

  6. Hi Janice. I have found critique partners to work with so please remove my name from your list.

    Many thanks

    1. I'll be happy to, but could you please email me so I know which email and person to remove? I have several Lynns and I don't want to boot the wrong one :)

  7. I'm a bit late with this comment (sorry about that), but I was wondering if this is solely for people giving and receiving crits for already written drafts, or does it include people still writing it who would like someone to discuss a work in progress? I find that I work best when I have someone to bounce ideas off between writing sessions, but the ones who helped me with that don't have enough time anymore because life got in the way. Is it worth signing up for that or should I look elsewhere?

    1. Both. There are writers from all genres and levels looking for a variety of group types. It's winding down now, but there's still some activity and people looking for groups. Just tell folks what you're looking for and anyone seeking the same thing will likely respond. You can also check the master list for those looking for in-progress groups.

  8. I am also a bit late here, and much like 'Anonymous' am looking for more of an idea bouncer, WIP, general questions and technique discussion like scenario. I write all sorts of things, ranging from off the wall essay's about life in general, Sci-fi / Fantasy, Western, Action / Adventure, I'm all over the place with my interests in writing.
    I'll shot off an email later with my info and get signed up. Thanks.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Janice, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
    For anyone considering posting on the CC, one of Janice's success stories: Three years ago, when she put out the call, I reached out everyone who wrote SFF. We moved from the Yahoo environment thanks to one of the early members who set up our group on Trello. It is amazing. Only members can access and the environment is rich with color and accessibility. We're in constant contact with each other. Two of our members will be opening the doors on a new arm to the main boards which will also be by invitation only and focuses solely on beta reads of ms their authors feel are ready to publish. We host at least 8 Skype hangouts every year with noted experts, among which Janice herself, Lisa Cron, Elizabeth Sims, Brian Staveley, Jefferson Smith who have spent upward to two hours talking about their work, the industry and answering questions. Our next guest is Alexandra Sogoloff of Hunter Moon fame and her latest craft book, Stealing Hollywood.

    In short, if your track is publishing, be it trad or indie (we've got both) and you write any age group SFF, when you see Morgynstar's invitation, email me. Inclusion in the group is via submission of a chapter/or short of your work and if it gets a yes, then you will crit one of our member's chapter. Feel free to check out my Twitter feed too, @Morgynstar.