Writers understand the value of community, sharing ideas, and getting an honest critique of a writing effort. Critique groups and writing groups can offer these benefits, but finding the right forum isn’t always easy. In addition to the considerations outlined in the article “4 Considerations When Evaluating a Critique Group” (here on the Author Learning Center), another factor is whether to pick an in person group or an online group. How do you choose? Here are some pros and cons of each option.
Online Group Pro: Online writing groups offer simple, convenient opportunities for writers to find readers without leaving the comfort of their homes, waiting their turn in discussion settings, or looking another human being in the eye. You can simply delete an offending e-mail and never see that bad writer/mean critic ever again.
Face to face Con: In a face to face workshop, you cannot just "delete" a workshop member you don't like--at least not legally.
Face to face Group Pro: Longer argument or deeper discussion in real life helps force you into thinking in ways you maybe didn't want to. Yes, you may find yourself confronted and flustered week after week with someone who really does not understand you, your writing, or your genre. The group can counteract that. The biggest advantage to face to face discussion lies in the group: you receive live feedback on other people's feedback instantly, which better helps you to feel out which advice to take or leave.
Online Con: It's harder to get live feedback on the comments you receive online, so you don't get the benefit of watching people have to hash out their arguments and reasons for evaluating your work in a certain light.
Online Pro/Solution: You can only get "forced" critiques online. Critters.org, the oldest writing workshop on the web, solves the "will I get attention" problem by requiring authors to read other group-members' work to meet a certain quota before their own work appears in a queue for reading. The network also rewards published authors and encourages them to participate in the group by requiring less of them critique-wise. The forced requirement of critiquing others may actually become the most valuable tool you have to clean up your own writing style. Once you write a helpful or in-depth critique of someone else's work, you can go back to that author and ask them for reviews of your work. Even a very bad "critter" is at least a reader who you can use to can judge your book's marketing strengths and weaknesses. Do good critiques to help others, and they will repay you.
Face to face Pro: Authors who put forth the effort to attend a face to face workshop or pay for membership in a writing club sometimes have more expertise with which you can work and learn.
Verdict: Why choose only one workshop? Is it possible for a writer to get too much feedback? Use online searches and forums like the Absolute Write Water Cooler to find a good local workshop--stay safe online, of course, and don't agree to meet anywhere private. Use your local writers' coffee shop--or the creative writing department of the nearest university--to help you find a good internet forum. Don't limit yourself--it's a writing group, not a monogamous matrimony, so shop around.
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