“Ask an Editor” is a forum wherein SCBWI members submit questions that are answered as part of our quarterly Kite Tales blog.
Hello Christine – I think I’m ready to join a critique/workshop group. How do they work now that we can no longer meet in person, and how do I know someone won’t steal my ideas? Thanks.
—Maggie, Los Angeles
Hello Maggie – The information in my June 20, 2018 post with tips for finding a critique group through reputable sources such as SCBWI remains valid. Before the pandemic, critique groups revolved around WHO (writer’s category or genre) and WHEN/WHERE (time and location of meeting). Let’s take a look at what’s happening now.
WHO: Critique groups are cost-free but require a commitment of time. Whether it’s PB, MG, or YA, it helps to find a group focused on the category you write in. For example, if you’re looking to workshop a PB, writers familiar with PBs will understand the importance of word choice and of leaving room for art. Picture book writers typically swap one manuscript per session. Critique groups for MG or YA novels will have their own rules as to how much content can be shared each meeting. Some groups have word-count limitations; others allow for writers to share full manuscripts but meet infrequently to accommodate the larger reading load. Critique groups also form based on genre (fantasy, historical fiction, and so forth).
Some groups only provide critique while together virtually. Others also provide written feedback. My main PB critique group meets monthly and does both.
WHEN/WHERE: With so much happening virtually, finding a place to meet locally is no longer a problem—as long as the date and time work with your schedule, just log onto your computer and connect! This makes it easier than ever to join a critique group.
RISKS: Regarding someone stealing your ideas, it can happen. As with any relationship, use your best judgement before proceeding. I prefer groups where all the members agree to confidentiality language but idea-stealing is more of a trust issue. Also, ideas cannot be copyrighted.
Allowing fear to drive you will make it nearly impossible to share your work with anyone else. There’s room in the marketplace for many books on some subjects. For example, if you workshop a story about dinosaurs, that shouldn’t prohibit anyone else in your group from doing so too as long as it’s different.
BENEFITS: While there are certainly risks, there are many benefits.
- Feedback improves your stories.
- Critiquing strengthens your analytical skills.
- Camaraderie: Your group commiserates with you and cheers your successes.
See what’s out there and find what works best for you. It’s worth the effort!
To ask a question which may be answered in an upcoming Kite Tales, please follow this link and fill in the form. You must be logged in to your SCBWI account to access this feature: http://losangeles.scbwi.org/ask-an-editor/.
Answers by Christine Van Zandt, literary editor and writer, and owner of Write for Success Editing Services.
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