Finding a Novel-Writing Critique Group in Covid Times

I can’t figure out how all my friends are finding so much free time lately. They’re learning to bake bread with pumpkin glaze, how to give self haircuts, how to construct elaborate home art projects like mini Sistine Chapels with their kids–meanwhile, between my teaching job (now done remotely) and wiping down the house a zillion times for germs, I’m not learning any cute new skills. And I’m certainly not bored. I’m just writing–and it’s a joy.

If you’ve thought about embarking on your own writing project now that you’re home more, you’re not alone. Many people are turning inward, examining themselves, delving into their creative sides, and finding the courage (and inspiration) to write their memoirs, pen that chapbook of poems, or tackle that novel idea they’ve always (maybe literally) dreamed of writing.

Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to cultivate a strong critique group. You need this not only because you need support during this opportunity, but because you will inspire each other to write more, write better, and write with more focus. Finding a good critique group isn’t easy even in non-Covid times, and likely now you’ll need to conduct this online. Don’t despair. I’ve started two great critique groups online since March, and you can, too.

Such a group can be found in many places, especially since distance and commute now have little bearing on the endeavor. Start with your local library programming. If they don’t offer a group, request one. You’d be surprised how often and how quickly public libraries respond to programming requests, especially those that allow librarians to enjoy their creative side. Since this will be online, reach out to any library or group that interests you. I started one this way a year ago; we’ve since transitioned to Zoom sessions and meet regularly with a strong core group of writers.

Additionally, you can try a local writers’ organization. Search them in your area and see if any host writing circles. Membership costs are usually low and go toward a dedicated group of volunteers; some are free. Other benefits will likely include creative writing workshops and sessions by industry professionals. I’ve been a member of this type of group for three years and wouldn’t trade their feedback on my novels for anything. Lastly, of course, there’s Meetup. And with Nanowrimo coming up this fall, be on the lookout for local write-ins and writer’s circles.

Now, once you find your group, you’ll want to set some ground rules. I recommend meeting regularly to gain momentum. Even if no one is willing to share at first, try discussing a sample work. Once you get going, consider limiting submissions to ten pages so that readers aren’t overwhelmed. Eventually, you’ll get savvier at figuring out who gives useful feedback and who just keeps saying, “I really like this.” Lastly, don’t make your meeting links public. That’s not safe. And if anyone is hearing impaired, Google Hangouts has an excellent closed-captioning transcription.

Now get going! The only way to be a writer is to write!

Kendra Griffin is a writer and teacher of writing; her website can be found at

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