How To Start a Critique/Support Group

Posted by Rita Lorraine

In The Classroom, Support Groups, Rita Writes History

Hi Everybody!

Writing can be an excruciatingly lonely business, so I thought I would offer some suggestions on how to form a support group so you won’t feel so alone in the world.
Here we go!

1. Decide what type of group you want – Children’s Books, Novels, Sci-Fi, etc. Remember, groups can be broken down to their lowest common denominators, like Picture Books, Middle Grades or Young Adults. Or, you could form a group where the members write in a combination of genres. It’s up to you and your members.

2. Try to recruit the best. Since you want only the most talented writers, be sure to search for your prospects in existing writers’ groups and organizations in your city, state, genre, etc. – whichever applies. You can begin with places like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and Verla Kay’s BlueBoards. SCBWI charges $75 to join, but Verla Kay’s boards are free.

The addresses are and Verla Kay’s website is

Of course, there are plenty of other groups and listservs to join. Another starting place is Yahoo Groups (

3. Screen your prospects. This may seem a bit prejudicial, but be sure prospective members can spell, type, use correct grammar, and have access to the internet in case your group can’t hold physical meetings. Although these groups are formed with the goal of helping one another, you don’t want to end up having to give impromptu lessons on English and grammar, but it can happen if your prospects don’t have the basic composition skills.

One screening method might include requiring writing samples. That way, you can determine whether your prospects are real writers, or whether they just talk a good game.

4. Make your choice for new membership, but limit your group to 5 or 6 members only. Remember, these members will have lots of material to submit, and you’ll have your hands full with submissions, critiques, suggestions, discussions and the like. Anything more may be unworkable.

5. Set Critique Rules. Come up with your own, of course, but just to get you started, I’ll tell you about my group. Our rules include submitting only when you’re caught up with other critiques; completing a critique in one week; remembering to be kind and offer constructive criticism; submit PB’s (picture books) in entirety, but longer books in chapters of 1,000 words maximum, and then only after everyone has critiqued the previous chapter.

Be sure to enlist all your new members for ideas on rules and regulations.

6. Set Meeting Rules. If your group plans to hold physical meetings, be sure to set rules on promptness, preparation, etc. There’s nothing worse than setting a 1pm meeting and having someone wander in at 1:15 or 1:30 and ask if you wouldn’t mind starting over.

I hope this short list of suggestions has helped you. There is a more detailed article about forming a support group for NOVELISTS at this link; however, you can configure the suggestions to suit your particular group:

Best wishes and happy writing!


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