CRITIQUING KNOWHOW Joining a critique group

So you've been writing from your closet and now it's time to open the door and get some feedback. Joining a critique group is great when you know how, says Sarah Broadley.

Sharing is caring, right? Yet sharing your work has to be the hardest thing a writer or illustrator can do in the journey to publication. After all, why should you show it to someone else? That’s your blood, sweat and tears on those pages!

I’m quite happy in my cave with my volumes of ‘how to’ books and highlighter pens, thank you very much. What’s the alternative, you ask? Join a SCBWI critique group. Take a bold step for literary-kind and attend your local meet up. You’ll find a room full of people in the same boat as you, ready to help steer you in the right direction as you carry on your journey. They know you’ll be anxious so maybe the first session you attend, don’t submit any of your work and just see how you feel about the format, discussions and feedback given on the day?

Portrait of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway used to Critique with James
Joyce and Gertrude Stein. Credit: Pixabay

When you're ready to hand your manuscript over, consider what kind of feedback you need from your fellow members. Remember that you're putting it in for considered critique and not just a slap on the back! What is it that you need help with? Do you simply want clarification that your story isn’t awful? Or that the main character has more life than a mannequin? Or perhaps you need to know that your scene changes actually constitute a story arc?

Feedback comes in many forms and some of us are better at taking it than others. Pull up your creative socks and listen. It’s your story, you’re the person who gets to decide what stays and what changes. But you may come away with nuggets of helpful gold. Expect to hear helpful suggestions in the form of ‘have you thought about this’, or ‘how about that’ or in my case ‘you might want to consider changing that so that the frog actually lives since he appears again in five chapters' time’.

For Sarah, critiquing led to publication!
And if you want another good reason to join a crit group - cake. There’s always cake.

So, take a deep breath, get in touch with your local network and take it one step at a time. Your first one is here.

Header image:

Sarah Broadley lives in Edinburgh with her family. She has two cats that bring her dead things when she writes in the early hours of the morning. She is now no longer afraid of mice, birds and spiders. Sarah co-chairs the SCBWI SE Scotland network and wins invisible prizes for her outstanding procrastination skills.

Helen Liston is KnowHow editor. If you have any ideas for Knowhow topics, contact her at

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