The last group I will discuss is a well-organized critique group for fiction writers. This group was formed out of a larger group called the Night-Writers.
The Night-Writers welcomes all writers, no matter the genre. They have a guest speaker at each monthly meeting. The focus is more on the speakers and marketing than on writing. A marketing firm spearheads the main group. They do marketing and book production for authors.
The fiction writers critique group is a part of the Night-Writers and focuses on writing. An author doesn’t have to employ the marketing firm to be a part of the critique group or to attend the general Night-Writer meetings.
We meet once a month on a Sunday afternoon in the basement of a local bookstore. Our leader is a benevolent tyrant. He makes the “rules” clear at the beginning of the meeting so there is no doubt that we are there for business. Our business is critiquing and we do it in a well-organized, fair way, allowing all members to give input. Our benevolent tyrant expects us to “do our homework” and review the stories prior to coming together on Sunday. He sends out two stories each month by email and we use a format that he developed to critique the stories. This means only two people get their stories read at the meeting, but that’s OK because my story will be read eventually and it will have a well thought out critique with helpful suggestions that I can take or leave. We read the stories at home at our leisure and fill out the critique sheets. When we get together at the bookstore, we go around the table and give a verbal critique, then hand our written ones to the author. After everyone is done, the author gets to speak to any misunderstandings of his/her story. Each person is allowed 5-6 minutes to give the critique and our benevolent tyrant sets a timer so all know when 5-minutes is up. An extra minute may be added on if the group agrees to it.
Pros: The critique group has good leadership with fair, clear objectives. It meets regularly at the same place and time each month. Critiques are thorough and follow a standardized format. The group has approximately 12 consistent members who attend regularly. The group welcomes new members. Impartial, non-judgmental criteria are used for critiques and mean-spirited language is not tolerated. No one dominates the group as verbal input is timed, allowing 5-6 minutes per person, including the leader. Critiquing others’ works helps the writer grow and develop his/her own writing style. The pieces that are critiqued can be several pages long, allowing for a more complete vision of the story. On occasion, the group discusses the mechanics of writing, touching on topics such as point-of-view, use of dialogue or story structure.
Cons: Only two stories can be critiqued at each monthly meeting due to the length of the submitted material and the time it takes to go through it. Writers may end up doing more editing than writing.