Choosing the Right Critique Group

So far we’ve talked about the importance of knowing what we want from a critique group and clarity about what a group wants from us.  So how do you know what group is right or wrong for you?

How do I know if I’m in the right critique group for me?

  • If you’re getting what you said you wanted from a group.
  • If you feel challenged and see growth in your craft.
  • If you’re moving toward your goals.

Notice, “if it feels right” didn’t make the list.  Why?  Feeling good and getting what I need are two very different things.  Sometimes I can be with a group that feels great — but it’s not a good critique group for me.  I’m getting lots of positive feedback and we all love each other, but I haven’t felt stretched or challenged in some time.  Which leads me to the next question:

How do I know if I’m in the wrong critique group?

  • I don’t feel stretched or challenged.
  • I’m not moving forward with my goals.
  • I’m not getting what I said I wanted out of a critique group.
  • The group is dysfunctional — Note: if it feels like your family squabbling at Thanksgiving, it’s probably dysfunctional.

Once again, “if doesn’t feel right” didn’t make the list.  Why?  To learn and grow, we have to put ourselves in uncomfortable places.  If I really want to be better, I need to be challenged, to be stretched in new ways.  And that kind of challenge isn’t always comfortable.  Of course, there’s a point where the discomfort outweighs the benefit.  If I’m so discombobulated I can’t think straight and my writing is actually suffering, then maybe I’ve gotten in over my head and need to take the critique process down a couple of levels.

How do you know if a critique group is right or wrong for you?  Post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Next post I’ll look at face to face vs. online critique groups.


  1. Good stuff, Richard. Critique groups can be exceptionally helpful, but only if you’re in the right one.

  2. admin says:

    Yeah. I’ve been lucky with groups, but I’ve known folks who get in a group that just isn’t working for them and then they really have a bit of struggle extricating themselves. You gotta do what you gotta do!

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