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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Critical Help

            The subject of getting critical help has been on my mind the last couple of weeks. By that I mean readers who will take a look at your work and make suggestions on how to improve it. This is available in the form of critique groups, beta readers, and editors.

            For most authors, the critique group will be their first encounter with getting critical help outside the boundaries of family and friends. These groups can take many forms; weekly, monthly, meet in person, critique online, genre based, all categories accepted, and any combination of the previously mentioned factors. They are used as the story is written and help to point out problems with plot, wordage, characterization and pretty much anything that goes into a story.

            Once an author is finished with a story the beta readers are brought in. They don’t necessarily have to be trained in writing an effective story; they just need to recognize a good story when they read one. Beta readers find logic flaws, confusing segments, awkward phrasing and their reaction to what transpires. Since they will be reading a story over a fairly short period of time they will pick out problems that a critique group missed due to reading it a chapter at a time.

            Editors have a trained eye for writing. If you’re fortunate you may find a way to gain editor feedback on your story before it’s actually submitted. In my case, I entered a first chapter contest at this years LDStorymaker conference. All of the entries were judged and the writer received an evaluation on the chapter. That may not be what they called the judging comments that were sent back to the writer, but that is what it amounted to.

            Whatever stage of writing you are currently in getting critical help will greatly improve your chances of being published and that is what this post is all about. A little research on my part netted several resources that may help you find the kind of critical help you currently need.

            Critique Groups:

Local Library - I found my first group at the city library. Obviously, the bigger and more populous the location the more likely it is that one already exists. If your library doesn’t already have a regular meeting of writers, look into starting one.

Book Stores – Some of the independent book stores act as a gathering place for local writers. Check around and see if any of them currently have a critique group that meets there. And if none of them do see if they would be willing to host a monthly meeting. That’s what my group does now. We purchase snacks from the store while we’re critiquing and then we split up afterwards and look to see what book have come in that we can’t do without.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month is about writing as much as you can on your novel in one month. As a part of this effort they do have a forum where writers can post for critiques, feedback and novel swaps.

Absolute Write – Absolute Write is a great resource for writers. In addition to publishing news and links to writer resources the forums include, among other things, a place to look for beta readers, mentors, and writing buddies.

Critique Circle – I am not a member of this site, but it is highly recommended by the Preditors and Editors website. They have a detailed FAQ that will help beginning authors to connect with other writers and start critiquing.

Critters – If you write Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror then you can connect with people in your own genre for critiques. The site is highly recommended by several sources, including Preditors and Editors.

Writer's Digest – The well-known writing magazine has a section for writing groups. It also has sections for contests, author resources, editor blogs, and of course writing articles.

The Writer Magazine – Another well-known publication for writers. While you’re here looking for a critique group you can check their Market Directory for agents, publications, contests and conferences.

* I have included links to well known and reputable organizations, but still be careful in sharing your work with others.

            Beta Readers:

Critique Group Resources – Pretty much any of the links above will provide access to both critique groups and beta readers.

Friends and Family Network – Undoubtedly, you have family members and friends who like to read. Feel free to enlist them in getting your novel beta read. As I mentioned above, they don’t have to be writers in order to know if something reads well. They just need a passion for reading.

Author Network – This is my own suggestion, but I find that the contacts I have made through blogging have given me a fairly extensive network of educated readers. If you have made some writing buddies in the blogging community they should make excellent beta readers.


Contests – A few writing contests that I’ve seen on the internet list a professional critique of your manuscript as one of the prizes. If you happen to win you can get insightful help for your novel. However, a lot of contests are judged by editors, or other professionals in the industry, and if any sort of feedback is part of the process then you can benefit just by participating.  

Workshops – If you can afford to attend a workshop, you can get a professional response to your manuscript. This method may be a bit pricey to gain input on your manuscript, but it will be accompanied by some worthwhile author training. There are several excellent workshops available including Clarion and Hatrack River.

        By no means is this a comprehensive listing of all the resources open to my fellow authors in training. If you know of a website, workshop, or contest that provides critical help for writers, please include a comment and tell us about it.



  1. Randy this is great! I didn't know about some of this so I am really liking the info. I think crit help is so important! I'm glad you shared.

  2. This is some wonderful information. Thank you so much for posting this.

  3. Wow, it's really great of you to post this information - it'll be a big help for the blogging/writing newbies and I'm sure even those of us who've been doing it for a while can get some new ideas, too! Thank you. :-)

  4. I haven't used this site for critiquing, although I follow the blog, but http://www.ladieswhocritique.com/ have regular 'match up' posts.

  5. This is a great list. I'm gonna bookmark this post. Thanks Randy!