I found my critique group while I was still going to school at Brigham Young University. I took a children’s book writing class from author Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One, Glimpse), and after the class finished a few of us decided to keep writing together. The group has morphed over the last couple years including people who were in that class with me and also people I knew from conferences.
Obviously, not everyone is coming from an a place where they’ve been taking classes at a university, but I do have a few suggestions for finding a critique group in other ways.
Finding a Face-to-Face Critique Group
Look for classes through local venues. While you may not be a full-time student, sometimes you can still find classes at local schools or other places, like bookstores. For example, Fire Petal Books, an all-children’s bookstore in Centerville, Utah, offers a YA Writers Group every Tuesday at 2pm (for free, I might add). They also have other writing seminars, like their most recent one: How To Write Like a Fifth Grader. Going to events like these not only can improve your writing but you can find people nearby who are interested in creating a critique group.
Ask around at local bookstores about critique groups that meet there. Maybe a group meets every Wednesday night in the Barnes and Noble cafe and the employees know about it. You don’t necessarily want to invite yourself to join the group, but maybe you can find out if they know of other writers who are looking for members or if they can tell you what local events are going on. Networking is a great thing.
Check out your local SCBWI chapter to see if a group meets near you. I’m not a member of SCBWI, so I’m not exactly sure how this works. But I’m sure that when you sign up to be a member, you can talk to other members of your local chapter.
Pay attention to local bloggers. Utah makes this easy because there are so many writing and book blogs. I’m not sure exactly how it is in other states or if local bloggers are as easy to find. But look for groups, like the Utah Book Blogger group on the Book Blogers Ning.
Go to conferences! Conferences are huge for writers. Go to them. As often as you can. Sometimes they are a week long, sometimes a weekend or a couple days. Either way, you can meet other aspiring writers that may be interested in setting something up. SCBWI has conferences every year. Locally, UVU often has a two-day conference in the fall and there’s also one coming up in March. The one I went to over the summer, Writing and Illustrating For Young Readers, is amazing and is very inexpensive considering what you get for a week-long conference. BYU hosts a free sci fi / fantasy conference, Life the Universe and Everything (LTUE), in February. BYU hosts a few more conferences periodically, so keep your eye on their conferences and workshops page.
See a trend here? Basically you need to network locally. Networking will help you find a critique group and help you make your way into the aspiring writer community (and then hopefully into the published writer community!).
Finding an Online Critique Group
The suggestions I gave for a face-to-face group can also help you find one online. But here are a few more suggestions as well. (Thanks to underdown.org for the websites!*)
CW (Children’s Writers)
This is a discussion group about children’s publishing, but a good place to network and find a critique group.
The CBI Clubhouse
More discussion groups and such that can help you find fellow critiquers.
The Writer’s Cafe
This is a free site where you can sign up and post your work, befriend other writers, etc.
YA Write: The workshop for children’s literature
Another website to post and get critiqued.