Thursday, June 20, 2024

Reasons To Be In More Than One Critique Group

Common advice writers are given when new to the industry is to find a critique group—a group of writers who share their stories and provide each other with feedback to improve them. Some benefits to being a part of a critique group:

  • Your writing skills will improve as you analyze what is working and not working in other stories.
  • You help each other learn about the industry, share the frustrations, and celebrate the good news, both big and small.
  • Having regular meetings with a critique group gives you a deadline to write/revise your stories.


Those are all good reasons to join a critique group. But, if you can, consider joining more than one. I’m in four! Each have different structures and time frames for submitting a story for critique and providing feedback:

  • An in-person group that focuses on picture books and meets once a month.
  • An online group for picture books where two authors submit a story each month.
  • An online nonfiction group for any age group of KidLit—PB to YA—where we take turns submitting stories every two weeks.
  • Another online nonfiction one for just picture books where we can submit one story each month, but we are very sporadic.


Why do I like to be in more than one critique group?

  • As we all know, writing is subjective and so are critiques. And different writers might be better at critiquing different aspects of your story. By submitting the same story to different groups, I get many view points. While various view points may be conflicting, if I see some repeated comments about the same issue, it’s a really strong indication that that part of my story may not be working. And while I may not make every change suggested, the various opinions at least makes me think about things I might not have considered. That is always a good thing.
  • As I noted above, my various critique groups work in different ways for submitting a story for critique and for providing feedback. Depending on the schedule each group has determines when I can send a story for review. Sometimes I have deadlines that I’m trying to meet and my turn for submitting might not coincide with when I need the feedback. Being in more than one group increases my odds of getting the feedback when I need it.
  • Sometimes one critique group has seen a story multiple times. As the saying goes, you only get one time to make a first impression. It can be hard for a critique group to review a story they’ve seen multiple times since they may bring their previous views to the one they are reading. By submitting a story to a different group for the first time, I’m getting a “clean” take on that story.


Other authors have also shared why they like being in more than one critique group:


Kathy Halsey, author of BE A RAINBOW (KiwiCo), is in two groups but also has several critique partners. She states, “Having all these groups gives me different perspectives, a broader view of how my work is seen by others, and a way to keep several stories going at the same time."




Lisa Katzenberger, author of A LOVE LETTER TO MY LIBRARY (Sourcebooks), among others, is also in two critique groups. She says “I love sending the various groups a PB at different stages of revision.”






Lynn Becker, author of JUNE MOON (Familius), states, “ I have two that meet regularly as well as various friends I can usually send work to when I need fresh eyes. It’s especially important for work that needs lots of revisions, when one group has seen something just too many times.”



It can be hard to find one critique group, much less four. How did I find them? 

  • SCBWI regional conferences: I found my in-person group when I joined SCBWI about 15 years ago. Our regional chapter had a list of contact people and critique groups they formed. I reached out to one person who had a picture book group and they had an opening. Another time I was at a different regional conference and connected with a another PB writer. She mentioned her online critique group had an opening and wondered if I would like to join them.
  • The Writing Community: The other two groups came about from writing connections I made, mostly from online groups, like 12x12, in Facebook, or the SCBWI Message Boards.


Tips on finding your own critique group (or two or three):

  • Attend writing conferences/classes both in person and online where you will meet fellow writers. The bonus with connecting with writers from classes you take means that you have similar writing goals or interests.
  • If you are on social media, connect with other writers there. Twitter/X has a hashtag for various writing categories: #kidlit #5amwritersclub #nfforkids, etc. Bluesky also has an active #kidlit group. Sometimes classes you take will form their own group on Facebook. Facebook also has groups like Kidlit411, SubItClub, etc. Kidlit411 has a specific Facebook group for manuscript swaps:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/KIDLIT411MSswap/.
  • The SCBWI Discussion Boards: If you are a registered member with SCBWI, there is a thread called “Find/Join Critique Groups” on the discussion boards. Click here: https://www.scbwidiscussionboards.org/index.php.
  • Inked Voices: Inked Voices is an online group for writers. It has a membership fee but it is a great place to find fellow writers and to dig deep into craft. Once a member, you can find “critique pop-ups” and join critique groups. Plus they offer workshops with agents, editors, and published creators. Learn more here: https://app.inkedvoices.com/.


I’m certain I would not be a published author without the help from my critique groups. I also know that the friends I have made through my critique groups have helped me weather the challenging aspects of the KidLit industry. I’d love to hear your thoughts on critique groups or advice where other writers might find critique partners in the comments of this post.


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Debra Kempf Shumaker started reading at the age of four and hasn't stopped since. She grew up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin but now writes picture books from her home in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. She is the author of FREAKY, FUNKY FISH (2021), TELL SOMEONE (2021), PECULIAR PRIMATES (2022), and the upcoming WIND IS A DANCE (October 1, 2024). 


Debra is a member of SCBWI, several critique groups, and also a co-host of #PBPitch, a Twitter pitch party for picture books. Debra reviews picture books on Instagram every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, firmly believing there is a picture book for every reason, every season, and every age. Visit her online at www.debrashumaker.com, on Twitter or X at @ShumakerDebra, on Instragram at @debrakshumaker, and Bluesky at @debrakshumaker.


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