This post, from Anne R. Allen, originally appeared on her blog on 5/9/10.
Finding a beta reader or critique group is essential to any writer’s development. We can’t write in a vacuum. Nobody ever learned to be a good writer holed up in an attic with no one to review his work but the cat. (Cats can be so cruel.)
Rachelle Gardner ran a guest post by Becky Levine in April with useful advice on how to choose a critique group by assessing your own stage of writing development.
There are lots of places to look for groups—bookstores and libraries if you want an in-person experience, or writers’ forums and genre organizations like RWA online. I’ve heard good things about Critique Circle and there are many more. If you’re looking for a single beta reader, you might try the forums at Nathan Bransford’s blog , the hub of all things writerly on the interwebz
But remember not all the advice you’ll hear will be useful. As Victoria Strauss says in her must-read Writer Beware blog “never forget that people who know nothing are as eager to opine as people who know something.”
Even worse than know-nothings are the know-somethings who turn every bit of advice they’ve ever heard into a “rule” as ironclad and immutable as an algebraic formula. Follow their advice and your book will read like an algebraic formula, too.
Here are a few critique group “rules” I find more annoying than useful.
1) Eliminate all clichés
Unless your characters are wildly inventive poets, space aliens, or children fostered by wolves, their dialogue and thoughts will include familiar expressions. Don’t rob your Scarlett O’Hara of her "fiddle dee-dees" or deprive your Bogart of "doesn’t amount to a hill of beans."