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When It’s Time to Mingle: Sharpen Your Writing Skills by Joining a Critique Group

As writers, we often feel that being reclusive nurtures our inner world, the place from which we draw energy.



It’s true that often we writers must sequester ourselves in order to remain focused. In fact, any input from the outside world, such as a spouse knocking at your office door or the sound of a television, are intruders we meet with frustration.  But there comes a time when you must invite the outside world into your inner world. It’s indeed difficult to maintain the laser-like aim toward a goal when writing, so why would you need a writer’s group, a group of other people tampering with YOUR vision?

Well, because if you stay up on the mountain and never come down to mingle with the flora and fauna, you might forget what species to which you belong. Writers need other writers and most of all readers; other writers make the best readers. So it’s only logical that together writers can help each other with their craft. While it’s possible to forge ahead into the publishing world without anyone else’s hand on the creation of your masterpiece, especially in today’s ever increasing ease to self-publish, to ensure the quality of your writing you MUST have outside eyes on your work. Whether you enlist the aid of an editor, a manuscript evaluator, a gaggle of teenage girls in your neighborhood who adore reading, or you join a writer’s group, you must come down from the mountain eventually.

Certainly, there is a time for keeping your work sequestered, but at some point putting your writing out there for analysis and feedback, is a mandatory step in the process of refining your work.


No writer can escape human imperfection. In order to be truly successful in your ever-aspiring climb toward perfection,  welcome objective feedback and engage in the process of outside proofing and editing. Joining a writer’s group gives you the perfect forum for this process.


Writing groups come in all shapes and sizes. From online organizations to small town critique groups, a group of your peers is an invaluable resource. The key is finding the right group, a group of individuals whose quality of work and opinions you can respect. Incorporated into your process, feedback will only benefit your writing and improve your potential to become the best writer you can be. Critiques, both good and bad, propel you to your highest potential and help you improve your skills whether it is for technical execution, plot, theme, dialogue or character development.

Joining a writer’s group might be intimidating to some writers, but even if your critique readers threaten to lop off your head, be brave! Ultimately, if you find the right set of peers, the challenge will only strengthen your skills as a writer.


Alice        OFF WITH HER HEAD!

How do you find a good writer’s group? For online groups visit a few forums and read the quality of writing that the participants use when critiquing. Surely, if they can’t write a good critique, then it’s not the best place to be. Live meetings with local critique groups or regional conferencing is one of the best ways to get the feedback you need to propel your writing to the next level. For local groups google your town with the word writers. Go to a few meetings and test the waters. See if the critiques you hear are honest and intelligent. It may take a while to find a group you respect, but in the end, there’s no question that joining a writer’s group will aid your growth as a writer.

Here is a list of links to help you find critiquing of your work:

Critters Workshop

This highly recommended workshop focuses primarily on speculative fiction (though it offers other workshops as well). The site offers sample critiques, tips on critiquing and participating in a group, and market information (including the “Black Hole” page that lists response times for speculative fiction markets). Considered a high-intensity group with high workload demands.

The Desk Drawer

An e-mail writing group that posts weekly writing exercises for members to complete, share and critique.


A social network with self-driected groups, some structured towards writing. However, in the last several years, the quality of wriitng here has diminished due to an over-emphasis in participation in games and such.

Google Groups

Search for the group that best matches your genre and interest.

Internet Writing Workshop

A workshop open to all styles and genres of writing, including fiction and nonfiction, long and short works. Must remain an active member to stay enrolled.


Enter writing contests, get critiqued, earn points and climb up the ladder to become a paid critter and finally a paid contest judge.

Los Angeles Writers Group

A writing community where you can get free online writing assignments or writing prompts; a place to make new writing contacts and friends.


Search for local groups in any topic or category. If you don’t find a Writing Critque group already formed in your area, here’s the perfect place to start one!

Mike’s Writing Workshop

Hosted by award-winning writer/journalist Michael P. Geffner, this lively discussion forum of over 6,500 members has been voted among the best resource sites in the annual Preditors & Editors poll. It’s friendly to all writing genres and emphasizes camaraderie; the sharing of instruction, information, and inspiration; and positive thinking and constructive criticism.


An annual competition to get your writing juices flowing. Though this site is mainly dedicated to encouraging the completion of a writing project, you can develop your own critiquing network through the community forums.


A writing community where you post your work, receive exposure to thousands of readers, and get guaranteed feedback. The readers determine who receives paid publishing contracts and $5,000 novel award.


A workshop for serious authors who have completed a novel of 60,000 words or more. Guidelines for participation are strict; this is not for “would-be” novelists.

Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

A fee-supported workshop hosted online.

Preditors and Editors: Writing Workshops

Quantum Muse

A SF/fantasy zine and online writer’s group; stories selected from the group are published in the zine. Members must critique to earn submission credits to be critiqued. Includes messaging system to discuss critiques and a forum for general discussion.

Review Fuse


Critique group for writers who are “actively and seriously pursuing a career in romance writing.”


This group is described as being for committed writers and offering serious feedback. One must critique to receive critiques. Open to all types of writing; also offers regular contests.

SF Novelist

A critique group for writers of “hard sf” novels.

SFWA: Workshops

Links to speculative fiction critique groups and workshops.


A writing community where members can submit work for critique and enter contests.

Swirl and Swing

A private peer critique group centered around a weekly assignment. Welcomes serious writers of all types with a particular interest in poets.


A complete list of conferences around the world. For those who are ready to make the grand leap out there to gain critiquing and professional guidance in a conference format.


“Our goal is to polish our manuscripts for publication, and whether we are published or unpublished, we are serious about creating strong novels that capture the interest of editors and romance readers alike.”

Writers In Touch

A UK site where writers can post their work for feedback, or simply read hundreds of stories, poems and essays.


Critiques, writing competitions, blogs, general discussion and more.


Godzilla Book Covers and You

An adaptation of a post previously published on my old blog, Literary Magic, 5/1/2011.

godzillaGodzilla has returned in the form of book covers published by none other than the new digital age, self-published author.

Let’s be honest. There’s no need to be polite when writing is at stake. There are some self-published authors out there who have book covers that are as poorly executed as the old Japanese Godzilla movies. Sure, they were enthralling for their time, but in this digital age, when virtually anyone can publish a book, it’s vital to have images that are as polished as your writing.

Maybe you’vegodzillabook come across a book cover or two that looked something like this? Well, maybe not exactly like this. After all, not all books can be as alluring as Jessica Lange in King Kong, but the point is that there are a lot of book covers out there slapped together pretty poorly.

Despite the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” the book jacket is one of the vital selling tools of a book. We all know the adage is a symbolic parable to be taken figuratively, but when applied in today’s world, more so than ever with the influx of so many self-published books, if taken literally, the adage is all wrong. The cover is most often a potential reader’s first impression of a book, and whether you consciously realize it or not, you most certainly do judge a book by its cover.

When browsing the bookshelves and tables at the bookstore haven’t you ever found your hand immediately drawn to the cover that catches your eye? This applies to online book purchases where thumbnails must capture the essence of a book as well. The colors or the image, perhaps a fancy style of text, all are designed to not only convey the theme that lies within the interior pages, but also to entice you with a design aesthetic. What greater hurdle could there be in book marketing than to get the book into the consumers’ hands, or in the case of electronics, onto their top screen? It’s the first step in the sale of the book. Next of course, you read the synopsis and maybe the first few pages. These three steps are the tripod of decision making behavior in the book buying process, and in the case of the brick and mortar store at least, none of these actions take place without the design of the book cover speaking to you first.


In Verso’s 2010 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior, 22% of all surveyed readers cited the book cover as being of primary importance to their decision to purchase and this after author reputation and personal recommendation, two factors upon which the debut author or self-published author can’t depend at launch.

That being said, a poorly designed book cover can do more harm than good. Not only will the eye and hand pass over the book, but an amateurish graphic will subconsciously infer that perhaps the interior is just as amateur. Often a perfectly good self-published writer loses out because they decided to just wing it with a book cover that Aunt Susie or a nephew drew. Even in the case of traditional publishers, the publisher rather than the author, frequently takes the upper hand when choosing art for the cover because of its integral role in the marketing process.

More and more self-published authors are catching on to the idea that in order to compete, one must hire a professional illustrator. The cost for book cover design varies and even at the lowest rates can be a challenge to a writer’s budget, but in the end, the investment is will worth it, not only for the visual impact, but the technical aspects of meeting the publisher’s file specifications.

So tell me, what books have grabbed your attention lately because of their covers? And would you buy a book if the cover was badly created?