Finding a Writing Critique Group by Ace Antonio Hall

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Today our guest blogger, Ace Antonio Hall, discusses the impact joining a writing critique group had on his writing and could potentially have on yours. Enjoy!

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Choosing a writing critique group may have been one of the most important things I did in my writing process towards becoming published by a traditional publisher. There were important factors that involved me getting to that point: finding a professional and organized writing society, attending writing conferences and workshops, and finally choosing a critique group that gave substantive feedback.

My YA zombie novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher, went through many, many revisions before it was polished enough to submit to literary agents and finding a home with a publisher thanks to my critique group. Now that I’m a critique group director, there are a few quick tips that I’d like to share to help others find a critique group that can help them polish their writing-in-progress, or if not published, become a published author.

As I previously noted, first, and foremost, search for a good writing club or society. What constitutes a good writing society? Their service to writers is an important start. Find one that provides free workshops or instructional meetings, provides opportunities for meet-and-greets with published authors and literary businesses, and one that attends writing conferences and book fairs, that with a membership, allows free access. If the society or organization is not a non-profit business, and/or charges for everything, beware.

If you live in a small town and there are no writing clubs or societies, fret not. Critique groups are everywhere, including online! What make a good critique group? In my humble opinion, it depends on how it is run. One you find a critique group, try to audit one, or preferably, two of their meetings. While in attendance, watch for how members interact with each other. Are the critiques very generalized or do the members go into structure, plot, characterization, writing style, suggestions for improvement, and even substantive editing tips, as well as, grammatical suggestions? Do they speak with professionalism and respect to the author’s writing or is it very informal?

Personally, being that I taught Language Arts for thirteen years, I prefer the, “Speak what works best first, then SUGGEST what improvements can be made, last.” As opposed to saying all the negative first, and then continue with everything that’s wrong without giving ideas to what can be done, or even worse, giving direct criticism and then telling the writer what they should write. That is not only counter-productive but does not support a safe environment for the writer’s story to reach it’s potential.

Lastly, ask the critique group leader if they have guidelines for giving critiques. If none are provided or have never been thought of, that is a red flag, that the critique group is more of a book club than a critique group that fosters published authors. The same thing applies to online critique groups. The moderator with clear and organized guidelines within a group of writers who all have a passion in your genre will probably work best for you.

Good luck with your search, and if you have any questions regarding critique groups, feel free to email me at ace@aceantoniohall.com.

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Ace Headshot 2012Ace Antonio Hall is a former middle-school teacher and Sylvan Learning Center director of education who has recently released his YA novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher from Montag Press. The story is a zombie romance about an 18-year-old Hawaiian-born martial artist/necromancer named Sylva who goes on a spring break cruise with her friends. Just as she starts to get over her depression over the death of a guy she really liked, the guy returns, and he and the undead crash the ship’s party. Available on Amazon.com. Follow Ace on Twitter @aceantoniohall and visit his website everyday for “Sylva Strips,” which are brief excerpts of the novel on www.aceantoniohall.com. Ace also heads the Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror (ScHoFan) Critique Group as Co-Director of critique groups within the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, http://www.glaws.org/html/mainmenu.html.

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3 Responses

  1. Carol Anne Olsen Malone says:

    I belong to a RWA side group that does critiquing, but the group’s has rules, regulations and guidelines that are, in my humble opinion, obsessive. One of the glaring rule is, “your piece must be in editor-submission-form before submitting it to a critique partner.” What’s up with that. Ask Beth, she’ll tell you about the struggle I’m going through to find a like-minded critique partner or group.

  2. Ace Antonio-Hall says:

    Hi Carol! I agree that so many guidelines can take the fun out of receiving quick and helpful feedback from your critique partner, and felt the same way when I first joined a critique group in 2008. The process of getting a response to my query letter for my novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher, was a long and frustrating process. It actually didn’t start with that YA zombie book, but three other manuscripts.

    Finally, one day, after scrambling to have my manuscript formatted when I was asked to submit, it hit me,

    “If I polish my act in practice, it will really shine when it’s ready to show!”

    The guidelines of always formatting my writing, as if I were sending it in to a literary agent or publisher made my work have a professional presentation at all times, which not only helped me in the long run, it helped me in the short run, when I was at a conference and one particular agent said, “I know it’s not finished yet, but just send me the first twenty-five pages, your story sounds interesting.”

    Yikes!

    Yes, Carol Anne, that did happen, and I have to thank my critique group for pushing my polished practice act to be ready when I needed to be ready on the spot. It made me a professional, and now, half of our 16 members that come to every meeting are published authors.

    If you, or anyone else has any questions about critique groups, please contact me at: ace@aceantoniohall.com.

  1. November 13, 2013

    […] in my writing process. Here’s a link to an article I wrote as a guest blogger here: http://www.writersfunzone.com/blog/2013/06/04/finding-a-writing-critique-group/ A literary agent told me to read in the genre that I wrote so that I would understand the tropes […]

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