Hey, SE Readers. Happy 2021. Joan here today.
No matter if you’re a beginning writer or have been writing for years, you’ve probably heard the terms critique groups, critique partners, and beta readers. Since the onset of indie publishing, critiques and beta readers are more important than ever. Traditionally published authors can benefit from these groups as well.
You may ask yourself which way to go. Let’s look a little at the differences.
Critique groups are most often composed of a group of local writers. They have a set meeting schedule with most meeting weekly or every other week. When I first began writing, I attended a weekly critique group. A published author/editor was the group leader. The feedback I received was extremely helpful as I struggled with words of my first novel.
Another plus to having a local group is friendships. Several of our members stayed in the group for years and naturally, a few of us became close. Some of the women members would meet for dinner once a month before attending our meeting.
On the downside. Unless you specify the group is a specific genre, you’re likely to have a mix of different genres. Some might write Sci-Fi, others romance. You may even have some non-fiction writers. While the members can offer comments and suggestions on sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, etc., not everyone will understand the basic elements of a specific genre.
It’s also possible to have some “want to be writers” that dabble but aren’t serious about the craft of writing. There is also a problem if a group becomes too large. We set our meeting time for two hours max. When more people began attending, we had to limit submissions to a specific page count.
There is also the issue with the “dabblers” who bring pages that take valuable time from the serious writers. I believe in helping anyone who is serious about writing, but if an author has a deadline, a critique group may not be the best choice.
Critique partners are a minimum of two people, but usually no more than three or four. While they can be local writers, often they are from different parts of the country and sometimes foreign countries. (Mae Clair has a wonderful post about finding critique partners. If you haven’t read it, just click here.)
The partners write in the same or similar genre and most often are published authors. They understand the craft and are serious about their work. I’ve been with my critique partners for about three years now. The feedback I’ve received has been far more valuable than what I had with the larger group. And though none of us have met in person, we have become good friends.
There are no set meeting dates and times. Each partner reviews the work on his or her schedule. My group sends submissions via email using Microsoft Word. We use the track changes feature for our suggestions. We also copy each partner so others can read and learn from work that is not their own. Personally, I wouldn’t trade my group for anything.
Some authors use beta readers. Even if you’re a part of a critique group or have a critique partner or partners, you can also benefit from using beta readers. They may or not be writers, but they have a love of reading. Beta readers can offer valuable feedback from a reader’s point of view.
I’ve used beta readers in the past, and I still have one I use today. He isn’t a writer, but a person who enjoys my books. He’s provided several helpful suggestions and has caught mistakes as well.
Are you in a critique group or have a critique partner? Have you used beta readers? Please share some of your experiences in the comments.