Once you decide that it's time for a critique group, how do you know who to join or recruit?
There is no single answer. Just like the "when" of critique groups, the "who" depends on each author. Some people like to have others who write in similar styles or genres. I think that this is especially helpful for me because if someone I'm working with is familiar with the children's or young adult market and literature then I feel like their feedback will be most helpful. On the other hand, there are certain things that someone not familiar with my particular genre can point out.
When it comes down to it I think the most important criteria for group members is how they approach critiquing.
Group Members should:give positive feedback
- be easy to work with
- point out what needs work and refrain from giving their specific opinions on how to fix it
- be committed to writing
- contribute both compliments and constructive criticism
- are able to take criticism easily
If you get into a group and the members aren't as dedicated to writing as you are, or they tell you that you suck, or they can't take criticism, or they just don't seem to be a good match for you and your writing, then find a new group or new members. Nothing says you have to stick with people that aren't helpful or easy to work with. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right critique group, but like any good relationship it's worth sifting through until you find a good match.
I went to a reading and book signing at the King's English in Salt Lake City for Gail Carson Levine. She shared a story about an assignment she did when she was young and still in school. The teacher had written on her paper that her writing was pedestrian--that it was boring. She didn't write for years after that.
What that teacher should have done was point out specific areas where the writing or the plot or the characters seemed to slow down or lose the reader's attention, so that she could re-work over those parts and make her writing stronger and more engaging. If you encounter a teacher like Levine's then move on to someone else who can recognize the good, strong parts of your story as well as help you identify the not-so-strong parts. Don't let anyone tell you that your writing sucks or that you should stop writing. Even if your writing is boring, that doesn't mean that you can't make it exciting--just keep writing. You can't get better at something unless you do it regularly. No matter what anyone says, DON'T GIVE UP.