Beginning a new writers’ critiquing group is a task made much easier by the Internet, and is a fairly viable alternative to joining an existing group. Existing groups are convenient because you only need to meet their entry requirements, and you will generally be accepted – however, they can also be problematic because the people in them are already accustomed to working together, and you will have work out where you “fit in” to what is effectively an established club.
A writers’ critique group is a rather loose – and simultaneously rather specific – type of mutual aid association. These groups exist so that all members can receive feedback on their writing, which makes the procedure a cooperative one. Each submits writings for review in the expectation that they will provide feedback on other people’s efforts in exchange. Thus, all members both receive and offer advice, “paying” for the aid of their fellows by providing reciprocal aid when called upon.
When you are planning on founding a writing critique group, or are seeking for exactly the correct group to join, there are two approaches you can take. One is to seek for a very specific, focused group – for example, a group composed of all science fiction writers, or all history writers like a black swan book. The other is to elect for a general group which mixes all kinds of authors together. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, which you should consider carefully before making your decision.
Eager though you may be to get useful critical input on your writing, you must bear in mind that it is wise to take steps to protect your intellectual property from the possibility of others using it – or simply from being ‘leaked’ accidentally to public areas of the Internet, which will destroy its commercial value completely.
The first thought that would occur to many budding authors, when they hear of other writers making use of critique groups, is why such arrangements are necessary? Very few people have absolutely no connection to any other individuals, and the natural response is to think of your friends, acquaintances, relatives, and even coworkers when choosing people to examine and critique your work. There are several reasons why this may not be advisable, however.