Last week I discussed whether friends and family make good beta readers. Today’s post will cover the benefits and drawbacks of an in-person critique group.
First of all, what is an in-person critique group? An in-person critique group is a group of writers that meets regularly to discuss each other’s texts.
The size and demographics of such groups will largely depend on the area you live in (urban vs. suburban vs. rural). However on average you can expect a group to have up to 20 members with at least 6 members attending any given meeting.
Most groups meet twice a month for 2 hours and ask the participants to upload/email, at least 48 hours prior, their work to the whole group, so that everyone has sufficient time to critique.
The critiques are then printed and read out loud in the meeting, before being submitted to the writer.
In most groups you are allowed to submit up to a maximum of two chapters or ten pages (double-spaced).
Now that I’ve explained the guidelines of critique groups let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages.
Accountability. Most people feel more accountable when meeting other’s in person. Your fellow critique members will try harder to give you better comments since they have to read them aloud to you and other members.
Constancy. Even though not every member will show up to every meeting you can expect your work to be critiqued every two weeks. The probability of losing all of your critique partners at once is pretty low.
Quantity. In comparison to websites where your work leaves the queue after 3 critiques, you get between 6 to 20 opinions at once.
Social aspect. You might find meeting other writers in person to be great for networking, motivation and support.
Breadth of genres. In contrast to online groups or individual critique partners where you exchange novels/stories of the same genre, expect that your local writing group will have all kinds of genres presented. You might write romance but find that there is 1 person or no one at all in your group, who writes romance. This leads to the following two problems.
- Do people in your local group know the conventions of your genre? How helpful will their advice be?
- Are you willing to read other genres? If 10 people in your group write memoirs and you hate memoirs, it will make the whole experience less enjoyable.
Time investment. Yes, you are getting 6 to 20 different opinions, but that also means you have to read 6 to 20 different chapters in two weeks (half of which you might not find enjoyable). Most likely you will also have to drive to your local group.
Expect to invest one hour of commuting to and from the meeting. Finally, you might find it a waste of time writing out your comments and then reading them out loud (takes twice as long, versus just critiquing online).
Slowness of results. If you have written a whole novel and want it to be critiqued within a month a local group is not the best option. Most novels have anywhere between 25 to 40 chapters. If you can only submit one chapter every two weeks, it will take at least 12 (!) months for your novel to be critiqued. Ask yourself if you are really willing to wait that long.
To summarize in-person critique groups have the advantages of: accountability, constancy, quantity and sociability. The disadvantages are breadth of genre, time investment and slowness of results.
I hope after reading this post you feel better informed to make the decision whether a local critique group is the right choice for you. My next post will focus on online critique groups.