Step-by-Step Guide to Setting up a Writing Critique Group or a Manuscript Swap

A little birdie told me what to write about this week.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But recently, quite a few people have either asked me how to advance their writing skills (answer: join a critique group) or how to arrange a critique group or what they should do if they cannot attend a critique group. And while I’ve discussed critique groups on the blog before, I think it’s worth a new blog post dedicated to this topic, because I’ve been helping run critique groups for nearly five (or is it six?) years now, and I’ve learned a lot.

Why Join a Critique Group?

You only will grow as a writer if you write regularly. But motivating yourself to write regularly, with no deadlines, is challenging. Getting useful feedback can also be challenging. For instance, you might have a close friend or relative read it, but will they be objective? And you could take a class, but that might involve spending money. (Note: I think it can be worthwhile to take writing classes – but I don’t have much spare change and won’t assume you have it either.) You can remedy all these problems with a single solution: the critique group.

How to create a critique group:

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Fans, friends, and trolls–publishing my first piece on Tablet

So, Tablet published a piece of mine this week. It’s been a crazy experience.

In the first place, writing the piece was a bit out of my comfort zone. While I usually write fiction, this is a personal essay. In brief, the story is about confronting my inner teenager as I’m approaching 40 and relates an episode where I thought a younger man was checking me out in a cafe.

Troll

Trolls don’t only live under bridges.

The subject matter was outside the editorial policies of the chareidi magazines that comprise my usual stomping grounds, so I had to find an alternative publisher. Afraid I might embarrass my husband, I almost decided not to publish it at all, but he assured me that he didn’t mind. And when I shared an early draft with writing friends, the strongly positive reaction encouraged me further.

Tablet accepted my query, then the completed essay. They had it up in a matter of days. Whoa. It didn’t leave me much time to prepare myself. And, boy, did I have to prepare myself.

You see, there’s a lot of differences between a Jewish, but broad-spectrum, online magazine like Tablet and print magazines in the chareidi world. The biggest difference is the comments section.

In a print magazine, there is no comments section. Continue reading