It's the age old question for every burgeoning writer. Should I join a critique group or should I not? The benefits are many fold, camaraderie, consistency, fresh eyes and possibly wine to boot.
But the downside of critique groups can also be challenging to new writers. Who's advise should you listen to, what if you have a bully in your group, what are the skill sets of the participants? Integrating yourself in an already existing group can be a daunting task.
So how do you find the right partners for you?
There are a number of options:
1) Start one with like minded friends
Groups don't have to be large. Sometimes it might just be two or three participants. The goal is to come together to support each other and push your writing forward. Sometimes knowing that you have to meet to read five pages the next week is enough to push you to continue to write.
There are a number of groups that meet to write or critique in your local community and the best way to search them out is through Meetup.com. It can seem a bit daunting to put your writing out there to strangers but the benefit of this is consistency (there is usually a specific day each week that the group meets) and fresh eyes. Participants can also choose when they want to participate so if you can't make it one week, it's not going to hurt you the next.
3) Faculty Led Critique Groups
For those that have a little extra cash to spare, the are critique groups out there that are lead by seasoned writers and editors. I am currently participating in one and it is by far the best critique experience I've had to date. Not only do you get feedback from fellow writers but you also get the structure and technical input that you would not from a regular critique group. Organizations such as San Diego Writers Ink. offer these types of critique services.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone in the group is there to help. The goal is to push everyone's writing to make it better (in a constructive and mature manner). You don't have to take the feedback that individuals provide but if you're getting the same input from several writers, then you know, there's something in your writing that you need to revisit.
Happy Writing and Critiquing!