The grueling critique process

To all poseurs, Marsha Durham announced yesterday on her blog, Writing Companion, “Don’t Even Think About Joining My Writing Group.” With glib humor, she then described the traits exhibited by annoying critique group members.

I can’t imagine how a legitimate critique group survives, but I do know that writers seem to have trouble locating them, whereas writers’ clubs that function as support groups are plentiful.

A writer who hopes to be published in a traditional medium needs to develop a thick hide. Editors and agents are desperate for talented writers who are willing to take direction. Conversely, writers who are sensitive and difficult had better be worth—in cold, hard cash—every bit of the time and trouble it takes to coddle them. Given the intense competition, any novice would be foolish to display the slightest hint of petulance.

How badly do you want to be published? Are you willing to spend time in a workshop or with a critique partner? Do you have the funds to hire a freelance editor? Can you face the prospect of revisions that will make your work more marketable—that is, more appealing to a publisher?

Online critique groups have the potential to take some of the sting out of the process, as they often allow members to participate anonymously. I very recently began collecting the following links, which I hope are helpful, although I’m not able to recommend any of the sites. I’ll be happy to add your suggestions.

Online critique groups for writers [added on February 1, 2009]
[Updated on May 4, 2009: You might want to read “”When Mainstream Publishers Link with Self-Publishing Services,” on Jane Smith’s blog How Publishing Really Works, for criticism of HarperCollins, which administers Authonomy.] [added on April 16, 2008]

Baen’s Bar [added on July 15, 2010]

Bibliophorum [added on September 1, 2014]

The Book Oven [added on August 17, 2009]

conjunctions [added on April 20, 2009]

Critique Circle

Critique Groups for Writers or Critters Workshop [added on February 16, 2009]

Deadly Prose Novel Critique Circle [added on March 30, 2009]

Desi Writers Lounge [added on July 8, 2012]

DocuToss [added on September 21, 2012]

Edit Red [added on August 18, 2009]

Editor Unleashed » Critique Forums (aka Tough Love) [added on March 27, 2009]

Eratosphere [added on September 2, 2008]

The Frontlist [added on February 1, 2009]

Inked Voices [added on August 2, 2016]

The Internet Writing Workshop [added on February 1, 2009]

Ladies Who Critique [added on November 24, 2011]

LegendFire [added on October 12, 2016]

Literary Den [added on April 16, 2008]

Lulu Poetry [added on April 15, 2009]
[You might want to read Self-Publishing Review editor Henry Baum’s criticism of the Lulu Poetry site’s launch.]

Magical Words Beta Readers [added on July 19, 2010]

Morningside Writers [added on March 27, 2009]

Mundo Poesía [added on October 14, 2016]

My Writers Circle [added on February 3, 2009]

Mystery Writers Critique Group [added on February 9, 2016]

Nathan Bransford » Forums [added on February 11, 2010]

The Next Big Writer [added on February 1, 2009]


Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror [added on February 1, 2009]

Poet & Critic [added on February 20, 2009]

Profwriting [added on May 30, 2010]

Protagonize [added on July 9, 2009] [added on October 25, 2010]

Scrawl: The Writer’s Asylum [added on April 22, 2009]

Scribophile [added on April 7, 2009]

Shakespeare’s Monkeys [added on September 11, 2012]

Silver Pen Writers [added on February 15, 2015]

Taylz [added on December 15, 2014]

Trigger Street Labs [added on December 14, 2007]

Two Adverbs [added on February 1, 2009]

Write the World [added on March 8, 2015]
“dedicated to improving the writing of high school students through a global online community and guided interactive process”

The Writer » PREMIUM forums: Critiques [added on March 27, 2009]

WriteRomance Critique Group [added on February 1, 2009]

The Writer’s Beat [added on June 6, 2010]

WritersNet [added on February 9, 2016] [added on February 1, 2009]
[Updated on February 6, 2009: You might want to read Writer Beware Blogs’ Victoria Strauss’s post criticizing this site.]

Zalso Writing Forum and Workshop [added on February 1, 2009]

Zeugma Writers’ Forum [added on February 1, 2009] [added on December 14, 2007] maintains a list of online writers’ groups as well as local groups and writers’ associations. also offers a list of critique and discussion groups.

Google Groups can be searched for a critique group that suits you, and Yahoo! Groups exist for the same purpose, although I found the Yahoo! site difficult to navigate.

GalleyCat Writers Group Directory helps registered users locate critique groups that meet online and offline. [added on May 16, 2013]

Please proceed with caution whenever money is involved. Plenty of businesses exist solely to encourage writers’ fantasies. Chalk it up as a form of entertainment or therapy, if you can afford it. Otherwise, do your research and avoid the remorse.

11 Replies to “The grueling critique process”

  1. Succinct and helpful re the whys and hows of critique writing groups–especially the caveat about businesses that prey on people’s dreams of being published. Some of their promises are the equivalent of the ‘burn your fat off in 7 days’ claims–impossible, but so enticing. Great list of sources to start writers searching. And surely the sources would NEVER harbour the types I listed in my article!

  2. Marsha:

    I’m happy to steer aspiring writers to the advice on your blog.

    It takes a lot of self-confidence to accept and make use of valid criticism. I tell writers to ask for input from only those people whose opinions they respect. Anything else is a waste of time.


  3. Phew, I’m glad these 10 types are not represented in my critique group. I have a lovely and talented group of ladies who provide insightful, constructive criticism. They are an endless source of inspiration and encouragement. I should send them all love letters today…I am lucky to have them!

  4. Tara:

    You are lucky. Maybe you could ask the group members why you work so well together and then let us know what they say. I haven’t participated in a critique group, but I’ve edited and been edited, which is a similar process. The key to those partnerships has been mutual respect.


  5. Robin, the group was much larger when I joined in early 2006: nine other ladies. Some started new groups closer to their homes, some moved, some pursued other interests…and when I rejoined after the birth of my daughter, there were only three others left. Our group is part of a local women’s writing organization and we have specific critique guidelines to follow. So having that structure helps. The smaller dynamic also allows us time to discuss the writing craft and enhance our friendship. I agree that mutual respect is essential. We also just try to have fun and laugh a lot; we don’t try to take ourselves TOO seriously! You won’t find any writing divas in our group.

  6. Hi Robin,

    There’s also a group called, which I think began by focusing solely on screenplays. It has recently branched out to include short stories and novels. I don’t personally know much about it, but it appears to be a thriving community and worth investigating.

    Cheers, Greg

  7. So, is Kevin Spacey’s project. That bodes well. Thanks for the information, Greg. I know a couple of screenwriters who’ll be intrigued, if they haven’t already heard of it.

    Do you have any experience with The Virtual Studio at, Francis Coppola’s site? I’ve never worked with a screenwriter, but I hoard information like a librarian. (laughing)

    By the way, I love your latest blogpost about book critics. Keep me laughing. Life is too short to be deadpan.

  8. Hi Robin, thanks for such a useful post! There’s some sites I’ll be checking out, and some really good points in here as well.
    I do want to let you know however, that Authonomy has announced it’s closure date of September 30th, 2015 (you can see the announcement for yourself here: Thanks for compiling this list.

  9. Thanks, AJH. I’ll go ahead and cross it off the list now.

    As you can see, I wrote this post at the end of 2007. Much has occurred since. Before sharing any creative writing online for publicly observable critiques, and before self-publishing, writers should consider that they will be creating indelible digital records of readers’ reactions to their work, which are superb indicators of their work’s marketability.

    I’ve received many queries from writers whose self-published books didn’t sell, or who lost the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, or whose traditionally published books never took off, or whose manuscripts were posted on Authonomy but never chosen by HarperCollins for publication, or who have never replied to readers’ legitimate questions posed on their author pages or personal blogs, or who have engaged in flame wars online. In many ways, they’ve already been judged and found lacking. Trying to overcome those deficits would be a foolish waste of time on my part. In that sense, my evaluation of a prospective client could be compared to a job interview.

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