When you’re rewriting your manuscript and figuring out how to make your second draft even better than your first, sometimes it’s not enough to work on your own.
As a writer, it’s hard to read your own story with an impartial, critical eye. This is where a critique partner or writing group can be invaluable in helping you hone your skills and improve your writing. Good critique partners can help by:
- Giving you a valuable outside perspective. When you’re too close to your own work, or mired in self-doubt, a critique partner can offer both suggestions and reassurances.
- Providing accountability. It’s easier to blow off an internally imposed deadline than it is to disappoint someone who is expecting to review your pages on a certain date!
- Offering support. Great critique partners believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.
- Acting as a practice run. At some point, you’re either going to submit your work to editors and agents, or you’ll self-publish. Both routes take an enormous amount of courage. Being willing to receive criticism helps build up your confidence and courage, and teaches you how to release your work into the wild.
But how do you find these critique partners or join a group?
Connecting with other writers to form a critique group sounds harder than it really is. Here’s a list of 40 resources to help you find other writers interested in trading critiques.
Online writing critique groups
These are websites and private writing groups dedicated to helping you find critique partners or learn about writing. They target a wide array of authors, though some focus on specific genres or styles.
Some of these sites involve a paid membership, although many are free. Also, many require that you critique in order to receive critiques, to keep a fair balance of work given versus help received.
1. Absolute Write Water Cooler
Absolute Write is one of the web’s most active writing forums. Check the discussion board “Beta Readers, Mentors, and Writing Buddies” (but acquaint yourself with other boards first).
2. Agent Query Connect
This community is especially great for writers interested in traditional publishing. There’s a “want ads” section where people advertise for critique partners.
3. Critique Circle
This group is initially a bit complex. You earn “credits” for critiquing other people’s work, that you can apply towards getting your own work critiqued. This system is great for people who have been burned in other groups, doing the brunt of the commenting and getting no feedback. Many people have met partners through Critique Circle.
4. Critique.org Workshops
This community started as the “Critters” group for science fiction and fantasy writers, but they are expanding into “all genres of writing” — literary and mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, romance, children’s, and even screenplays and nonfiction writing.
They have over 10,000 members and have given over 280,000 critiques since 1995.
5. The Desk Drawer
This is an interactive, email-based writing workshop. Its administrators encourage accountability and require a set number of critiques per month, per member. Admission is based on a writing sample.
6. How About We CP
This Tumblr site allows you to search for a critique partner by genre, or submit your own profile to allow others to find you.
7. Inked Voices
These cloud-based critique groups are typically limited to four to eight writers in a genre. All groups are private and invitation only.
To join an existing group, go to “Groups” and search by genre, organization or any other keyword you think would be relevant. You can then look at group profiles and, if you find one you’re interested in, send a note to the group facilitator asking to join.
8. Kingdom Writers
This forum/bulletin board for Christian writers provides critiques and opportunities to network for critique partners.
9. Ladies Who Critique
This women-only service matches up potential critique partners by genre and desired critique frequency. It allows you to have some trial “dates,” swapping a few chapters to check for compatibility.
10. Miss Snark Critique Partner Dating Service
The anonymous administrator only offers this service periodically — she’s done three, but it doesn’t appear she held one in 2014 — but it’s a useful site to keep an eye on.
11. Mystery Writers Forum
Network with other mystery writers and connect with possible critique partners, especially on “writing advice” board.
12. Nathan Bransford’s Forums
Nathan Bransford, famed agent-turned-writer with an active social media community, runs a board dedicated to finding a critique partner.
13. Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
This genre-specific group exchanges critiques and offers some professional reviews. The site also offers moderated groups.
Cost: $49 per year
14. Quantum Muse
This online magazine accepts sci-fi, fantasy and alternative pieces up to 8,000 words. Since all submissions are peer reviewed, you’ll receive feedback on your work from the community. You aren’t allowed to submit until you’ve earned credits by critiquing.
15. Romance Critters
This private Yahoo! group supports writers actively and seriously pursuing a career in romance writing.
Cost: Free, but you’ll need to apply and be approved
Similar to Critique Circle, you earn “karma points” by critiquing others’ work, which you need to get critiques of your own writing. The site also features workshops and resources.
17. The Seekers
This active writing group for Christian writers offers periodic “critique partner cyber match-ups.” Simply email administrators with your name and genre or sub-genre, and they’ll pair you up.
18. SF Novelist
This site is for science fiction novelists, especially those focused on “hard science” sci-fi. It follows the submission-credits model as well, where you must critique other submissions to earn feedback on your own work.
Cost: $10 per year
19. Sub It Club Private Facebook Group
A networking and support group based on Facebook that specializes in helping people submit their work. If you need help with query letters and pitches, this is a great option.
20. Swirl and Swing
This private, poetry-focused critique group is open to new members, though they try to maintain a “small and intimate” atmosphere. Two poetry samples required.
21. Writing to Publish
Originally founded in 1994 by the editors of Writer’s Digest magazine, this established critique group is especially open to literary fiction writers and holds live online chat meetings. To become a “full member,” each new prospect needs to attend a few live chats and submit at least two critiques prior to submitting work.
22. Writer Unboxed Private Facebook Group
This networking group offers a critique partners document — search it for potential partners, and add your name and details so others can you. Currently at nearly 5,000 members, it’s a very open, sharing and convivial group.
No self-promotion is allowed, and members maintain a strict focus on writing. I’ve been a member of the WU community for years, and have found beta readers and developed strong friendships as a result.
These professional groups support writers and often focus on specific genres. They’re great places to find industry information and publishing advice, as well as writing-specific instruction.
Check out local chapter meetings, or participate in online member forums if possible. Getting to know people is the easiest way to find readers you’ll be comfortable with, who may be open to critique swapping. Note: most of these organization have a fee-based membership.
23. American Christian Fiction Writers
Their mission is “to advance Christian Fiction by inspiring writers to join with God in the creative process, training them in the craft, and educating them in the publishing industry.” The organization offers critique groups.
Cost: The first year’s membership costs $65, and subsequent renewals are $45
24. Erotica Readers & Writers Association
An “international community of people interested in the provocative world of erotica,” this organization offers extensive author resources including market news, calls for submissions, a private email discussion list and a forum.
25. Historical Novel Society
Founded in the U.K. in 1997, this international society runs competitions to discover new authors, holds conferences and reviews many historical novels in The Historical Novels Review. It also maintains internet groups and lists, and holds “writing, editing and social events.”
Cost: $50 per year
26. Horror Writers Association
This nonprofit worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals is “dedicated to promoting dark literature and the interests of those who write it.” They sponsor the yearly Bram Stoker Awards for excellence in horror and dark literature. There are regional chapters as well as a mentoring program. Unpublished writers can join at an affiliate level.
Cost: Individual membership is $69 per year
27. International Women’s Writing Guild
A network “for the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing,” the guild holds conferences and regional events and runs a members-only Facebook page.
Cost: $50 per year
28. Mystery Writers of America
This organization is “dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre.” Based in the United States, it has 11 regional chapters, which often have Facebook pages and other social media channels where you can interact with other members. They also offer sponsorships for writers, organize symposia and conferences, and present the yearly Edgar awards.
Cost:$95 per year
29. National Association of Memoir Authors
They teach “the skills to write a memoir that weaves craft and truth” and have a wide range of member benefits. They also offer monthly “Group Laser Coaching” with Linda Joy Myers to help with memoir writing process, and have a members-only Facebook group.
Cost: $50 per year
30. Pacific Northwest Writers Association
This group is regional, rather than based on genre, and is focused on writers near Seattle, Washington. It offers raffles for developmental reviews from one of the board members, regional meetings, and a very active community of members.
Cost: $65 per year
31. Romance Writers of America
This friendly and helpful group is dedicated to promoting romantic fiction. They have chapters all over the United States, including several specialized online chapters dedicated to specific sub-genres. Local chapter meetings are often monthly, featuring informative speakers.
You can meet people in person or connect online to find possible critique partners. For those outside the United States, there is also RWAustralia and the Romantic Novelist Association in Britain.
Cost: $95 per year
32. Sisters in Crime
This organization formed in response to the growing use of graphic sadism against women in mysteries, as well as the lack of women authors being nominated for awards or reviewed in the same percentage as men. The group offers mentoring and networking opportunities as well as regional chapters.
Cost: $40 per year
33. Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN)
This group provides “information, resources and opportunities for everyone involved in or interested in publishing.” It offers an email discussion group, market update, audio recordings and various events.
Cost: $65 per year
34. Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWBI)
This is one of the largest existing organizations for writers and illustrators, focusing specifically on “writing and illustrating for children and young adults” in not only novels, but magazines, film, television and multimedia.
There are regional chapters and an online community. They also offer awards and grants as well as programs and events.
Cost: $95 for the first year, $80 per subsequent year
35. Western Writers of America
Founded to promote “the literature of the American West,” this group has a yearly convention and distributes the yearly Spur Awards for distinguished writing in the Western field. It also has a Facebook page where networking may be possible, as well as a directory of over 650 members.
Cost: $75 per year
Social media platforms
Keep it simple by finding like-minded writers in places you already hang out. If you’ve already connected with other authors on your social channels, just put out a request, saying, “I’m looking for people interested in swapping critiques! I write (genre). Anyone interested?”
If you haven’t built up a network, here are several places to look:
This social platform lets authors share stories with millions of readers for free. Many authors publish to get feedback or gauge traction for titles, or offer the first few chapters of a longer work as a teaser.
To find potential partners, search for people by querying “critique groups” or “looking for critique partner.”
While it’s known mostly for its reviews and genre-specific discussion groups, plenty of writers use Goodreads to connect with other authors. Search for “[your genre] + writers” or “critique groups.”
38. Facebook Groups
Facebook has myriad private and public groups of authors. Search for “[your genre] + writers” or “critique groups,” or try one of these Facebook groups for writers.
Put out a call for critique partners, adding the popular #amwriting hashtag, to see if anyone writing in your genre is interested in swapping critiques.
Interested in a local, face-to-face group? Meetup is a social networking site that connects people in real life, based on common interests. Type in “critique group” or “writing group” to find groups within a set radius of your location.
Finding a critique partner that “fits” can take time
It’s a bit like dating: you may find that there are some critique partners who are wonderful people, they’re just not right for you.
You may need to try several different critique partners to find people who fit with you and your writing. Be honest if something isn’t working for you, and don’t take it personally if it doesn’t work for your partner.
You may also work with different critique partners to seek feedback on different aspects of your writing. For example, perhaps one partner specializes in plot and pacing, while another helps you focus on dialogue or characterization. Mix, match, and be open minded.
Many writers in these groups and organizations are keen to connect with other authors. Hang out, read other people’s responses, and start asking questions of your own.
Most of all — have fun! Writers are a wonderful community, and you’ll be glad you connected.
Are you looking for a critique partner or beta reader? Start here! Include your genre or focus in the comments, and perhaps you’ll connect with a new critique partner!