What’s better? A critique group where the participants represent a diverse group of writers, or a group keenly focused on the genre in which you write?
Frankly, I’m torn. With a diverse group you get: (1) poets whose comments on imagery, lyricism, metaphor/simile will make your writing more beautiful; (2) people whose childhoods were vastly different than yours and will make your descriptions of, e.g., bear hunting, more realistic; and (3) a broad range of readers who will help you define your target audience.
On the other hand, with a more specialized group, you get people who: (1) know the standards of your genre, e.g., word count, “alpha males,” and the happy-ending requirement; (2) know the agents to whom you want to submit; and (3) know what’s hot (and what’s not) in the marketplace.
I mean, c’mon. They both sound great! How do you choose? It’s kind of like Thanksgiving when faced with the choice of Pumpkin or Pecan. Sure, Pumpkin is the standard and it’s practically a vegetable, right? But Pecan . . . I mean, you pretty much only see that once a year, and it would be a shame to pass on the opportunity. If you’re like me, you take a sliver of both. (And then when no one’s looking go back for seconds.)
I’m a member of a diverse group, just coming up on my one-year anniversary (subliminal message alert: I wouldn’t complain if someone brought pie), but I’ve also participated in Midwest Fiction Writers (a division of RWA). This Sunday I’m going to check out another more specialized group.
But, if you don’t have the time to go to two critique groups on a regular basis, go to Twitter for your specialists. For example, check out #kidlitchat (Tues nights), #litchat (Fri nights), or even #kidlitart (Thurs) if you’re an illustrator to boot. Find out who’s writing, follow them, entice them to follow you, and you’re on your way to building your own Best Damn Critique Group Ev-ah!
So tell me . . . what’s your number one requirement when choosing a critique group?