Pros and Cons of Online or in Person Critique Groups - article

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.

Critique Quality

Online Pro/Solution: You can only get "forced" critiques online., 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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  • Online critiques are about the best to help a writer improve along with books and articles on the craft of writing. I used to be a member of various writers groups. One of my favorite was Writers' Village university where you could meet hundreds of writers from amateurs to pros in every genre. WVU had forums for every sort of genre. I think it's still around so do check it out. During my time in various writers' circles not only my writing improved but also my critiques. I love rading aspiring writers' work and pointing out problem areas and offering advice and suggestions. My feedback focuses on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph coherence, plot, point of view, characterization, dialogue, description, conflict, and more.
  • Is online critique less costly than face-to-face?
  • Hey, This was very usefull and I do need critiques of my current project. George G A Wensley
  • Thank you, this is eye opening and very useful information.
  • thank you...useful insights!