If you have been writing creatively for a generous length of time, you have likely been involved with a critique group at some point. I used to host a twice-monthly critique group through Meetup in the evenings at a book store. I did this for several years. Loved it! (Read about how I started my critique group.) The group got so large that it broke off into two groups, and then three, and all of the groups continue to meet today—albeit the hosts have changed hands over the years and members have come and gone.
Before I started my writing business I had to attend critiques at night because I was tied to a 9-to-5er. Once I resigned and made my own schedule, critiques in the evenings felt like a chore. I loved the community and feedback, but I found myself looking forward to the events less. I took a break and passed the torch to another member. Then my love gave me some great advice—as he often does!—and told me:
Make the group work for you.
But organizing a group twice each month takes up too much time, I countered.
So just meet once, he said. You’re the one paying Meetup fees and they get to come for free.
His common sense is so wise!
Thus, the (almost) monthly Daytime Critique group was formed. I host the group as my schedule allows. I’ve only skipped three or four months over the past few years. The group is limited to three other writers and almost always has a waitlist. I still get to enjoy the community, format the group exactly how I like, where it’s convenient for me, remain accountable for my work, and refine my writing—and critiquing!—skills.
I love my critique group! (And my poetry critique group!)
Over time I felt like I needed feedback more frequently, but I didn’t have time to coordinate everyone’s submissions, critique the work, drive to/from and spend time at sessions. Let’s face it, most people involved in a mid-to-large critique group complain about not being able to submit their work each round. (When I had 10 people in the evening group, we only critiqued 3 people each time, so your work may only be reviewed every other month at best.)
How could I tap into other creative writers without getting skipped over for critique and falling in the time suck of organizing everything myself? Inked Voices.
Brooke McIntyre, a former Durham, NC resident, conceived of and launched Inked Voices, a virtual critique group platform that offers file sharing and critique tools catered to writers’ needs. Groups ‘meet’ in private online workspaces. As I have shared in earlier posts, I’ve been priming my short stories so that I can pitch them as a collection to literary agents. With my monthly in-person critique group, I wouldn’t have enough time to have objective eyes on my short stories in the time frame that I needed. I joined Inked Voices and shared a short piece to gauge the feedback other users would provide. I was impressed. In order to have another one of my pieces eligible for critique, I had to provide a critique to another user. Inked Voices works on a credit system. A user receives one credit per critique they provide to another writer. Some groups require multiple credits, others a single credit or no credits. I critiqued a piece, got a credit, submitted another one of my stories, and got fantastic feedback. Round and round this went and I got several stories critiqued in less than two months.
Similar to my in-person group, with Inked Voices I attend as my schedule allows, enjoy the community, can attend from anywhere, pick and choose groups based on size/genre/response time, remain accountable for my own work, and refine my writing and critiquing skills. (Keep in mind, some groups have set deadlines where you can’t drop in whenever you like.)
Now my short stories have graduated from critiques, the first few were reviewed by an editor, and now I’m working on my query letter. More on that soon!