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Writing Life: How to Find a Supportive Editing Group

By Rosemary Twomey


Editing groups are one of the most beneficial tools a writer can have. Find like-minded writers and editors through workshops, online platforms, and associations.

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Photo: Canva

In most cases, writing is a solitary activity. We pour over our characters, plot, and sentence structure and when it finally comes time to revise, it can feel daunting. Having a group of people equally as invested in your work and writing journey is a great motivator, especially when you are in the trenches of editing.


I have heard so many writers tell me “I don’t like editing groups” or “critique circles aren’t for me.” I am going to let you in on a secret: no one loves getting their work critiqued. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a comment pop up on my story and thought "Well, this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about," but you have to understand that the only way your work will get better is by taking edits in stride and listening to what your readers think.


I wish that everyone loved my work and no one had a single edit to make. Even for the most famous of writers and journalists, this is not the case.


It is important that you find a group of writers that are well-suited to your writing and critique style. If you are someone who is writing a historical romance manuscript, then you probably don’t want to meet with a group that writes research articles.


What Makes an Editing Group Effective?


Editing groups work to help you revise your work, but more than that, they hold you accountable to your goals and timelines. When you’ve spent so long reading and re-reading your work it’s easy to overlook all sorts of issues, from simple spelling or grammar to complex plot holes. With a trusted group of writers by your side, your work can reach its full potential.


My editing group is made up of myself and three other writers, all working on manuscripts in the upmarket fiction genre. We all come equipped with different skill sets that help us when critiquing but share a common interest in a specific genre and plot structure.


This is crucial. When selecting a critique group there needs to be a common interest in a particular genre. If there isn’t, you may notice critiques that aren’t helpful or relevant to your work. Because writing is so subjective, ensuring your editors are well-read in your genre is important.


My editing group typically meets twice a month and will read and critique 10,000 words. We all read the same pages and then take an hour to discuss our edits. We physically mark up the pages using comments and track changes. This way the writer has a constructive conversation as well as written notes to then implement into their work.


Another style of editing that is a great way for writers looking to ease themselves into critique circles is to attend writing workshops.


Typically in a workshop-style editing session, the writer will read their work aloud and then attendees will give their feedback verbally. This way there are no comments or physical edits on your pages. Conversational critiques are great when talking about plot and overarching issues as opposed to line edits.


The only downside to this type of editing group is that you can only read so many pages aloud. If you are looking to edit long-form writing like a manuscript, providing your work in advance is recommended.



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Photo: Canva

How Do I Find an Editing Group?


When I was looking for my editing group, I tried many different platforms (both paid and unpaid) before I landed on the perfect medium.


Take a look at the options below to see what’s best for you — or like me, try them all.


  • Writers Workshop

This is a great way to meet other writers working on projects similar to yours and have an instructor or mediator assist with critique etiquette. Writing workshops are offered online and in-person and most times you will read your work to the group and get verbal feedback. There are a variety of pricing options and formats available. I attended The Writers Circle Monday night adult writers workshop based out of the United States. Ten writers gather and take turns reading their passages aloud. Other writers can then pose questions and give feedback. This open conversation always sparked new ideas and helps writers understand where readers got lost in the pages. Writing workshops are a great place to start.


  • Beta Reader Matchups

If you are interested in having readers give feedback on your entire manuscript, you are looking for a beta reader. Beta readers don’t make line edits but instead, give their opinions on the entire plot. Author and podcaster Bianca Marais hosts a Beta Reader Matchup where writers connect to read and critique each other’s manuscripts. Bianca makes sure to pair writers who are working in similar genres and are in similar time zones. This is worth a try if your work is near completion and you want overarching edits.


  • Online Critique Platforms

If face-to-face critique groups don’t seem like your cup of tea, there are some great online platforms where writers can collaborate and critique each other's prose. Critique Circle allows users to post their pages and then others in the community will leave comments and edits throughout the piece. Writers must edit other people’s work in order to gain credits. Once you have gained credits, you are able to upload your own work. This platform is all about reciprocity. Like any editing group, if you aren’t willing to give others feedback, you won’t get any yourself.


  • Writers Associations

Associations are a great way to meet other writers in your specific genre or location. I met my editing group through the Women's Fiction Writers Association. There are so many associations for writers that offer mentoring, workshops, annual competitions, awards, and a great community to connect with. I highly recommend every writer be part of an association. Having a supportive community is important, especially when you are working on a big project.



But… I’m Scared to Have Someone Critique My Writing


It’s always nerve-wracking thinking about a reader commenting on your work. As long as you set clear expectations and boundaries with your editing group, you will get invaluable feedback. I assure you that no one will tear your pages up. You will never know how much someone LOVES your work if don’t show them.


Have any questions about publishing, writing life, or submitting to literary magazines? Drop them below.

 

About the Writer:

Rosemary Twomey is a writer based out of Montreal, Canada. She fell in love with character writing and development during her time studying professional writing at the University of Toronto. She can often be found reading with a cup of tea in front of a sunny window.

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