Acceptance of new members

The group likes getting new members, but we don’t accept everyone, and sometimes we have a waiting list. Membership is capped at 12.

Being published is not a requirement for joining, but actively pursuing publication is a requirement. Many current members, but not all, are traditionally published. This group is not an appropriate fit for someone who wants to start writing or to get back into writing, but who doesn’t have a substantial history and current habit of fiction writing.

Criteria for being accepted:

Acceptance is not based on how talented you are, how well you write, or your writing credentials. You don’t submit a writing sample to be accepted. You are accepted based on 1. responses to questions (below) via email and 2. meeting with us to talk about your experience, expectations, and attitudes.

We’re looking for writers with the right attitude.  Current members work really hard at the craft of writing and the business of publishing, but they also play extremely well with others and value a good critique group. Members of the group believe that study, practice, and critiquing leads to producing better fiction (also known as a “growth mindset.“)

We’re looking for people who have enough experience and training in fiction writing to benefit from as well as contribute to the group.

We’re looking for writers who can make participation in the group a priority. Your life can’t be so busy that you can’t consistently attend meetings. We’re not a drop-in occasionally group.

We’d prefer new members to have prior critique experience so they have some idea what to expect.

Members must be adults (18 or older).

We’re looking for writers who are predominantly interested in  traditional publishing of genre novels. Genre novels are what you’d find in a library/bookstore in the romance, mystery/thriller, action-adventure, horror, sci-fi/fantasy sections. Genre fiction is also sometimes referred to as commercial or popular fiction. It is not literary or mainstream fiction. Here’s the thinking–genre writers, no matter what the genre, are on the same page. Genre has accepted conventions making it somewhat easier to critique.  In addition to novels, many members also write genre short stories, however, this group may not be the right fit for writers who focus exclusively on short fiction.

This group focuses on traditional publishing. If you’re interested exclusively in pursuing self publishing/indie publishing, we may not be the right group for you.

This critique group is advanced. Our critiques are rigorous and detailed because we’ve found that’s how we ourselves continue to learn and improve. We critique based on the standards of craft found in how-to write fiction books, workshops, blogs, magazines, etc. Our focus is traditional publication which is a high bar, higher than what would be presented in many writing classes and workshops, for instance.

Because the group is advanced, we’re looking for members who are not beginners. (Yes, the term “beginner” is subjective. And in some ways all writers pass through many cycles of newbie to master throughout their career). We’re looking for writers who’ve been writing fiction for years–at least three years and have written at least 75,000 words of fiction. Most members have written at least one novel before they join. Here’s the thinking on beginner writers:

  • Joining a critique group should not be your very first step to becoming a writer. There are other steps you need to take first–you need to write and you need to learn about writing.
  • It’s best if you learn about yourself as a writer on your own first. You do that through writing. A lot. Every day. (In November, try National Novel Writing Month.) We want you to have a habit of writing, and to figure out what you write, gain confidence as a writer, and develop your own style before you start being possibly overwhelmed with suggestions from us.
  • You also need to study fiction writing on your own. This is not the same as voraciously reading fiction which you should also do (especially of the type you hope to publish). A critique group is not a methodical learning experience of the kind you get through study of how to write fiction books or by taking writing courses and workshops. The less you know about the craft of fiction writing, the less you’ll understand and benefit from our critiques of your work, and the less valuable your critiques of others will be. If you haven’t read any writing how-to books, we will ask you to do so.

Lastly, critique groups aren’t for everyone. For a variety of reasons, some writers don’t flourish in groups or certain kinds of groups. We make no claim whatsoever that this group is right for everyone.

To apply:

Before you email us about joining, please take a moment to honestly examine your needs and expectations and whether you’re ready to commit the time and energy to a group. Writing is not easy. Even if you don’t expect us to tell you how great your novel is, the first critiques are often unsettling in unexpected ways. Our feedback will never be malicious or destructive, we promise, but expect us to always offer substantive suggestions to make even the most polished piece better and, hopefully, publishable.

If you’ve studied critiquing rules & guidelines and are prepared for the quiz (just kidding), but seriously do read:

then answer the questions below in an email to the group leader:

  1. In a paragraph talk about your writing experience. How long have you been writing fiction? What kind(s) of genre fiction do you write? What have you completed? Are you published, and if so where?
  2. Have you been in a critique group before?
  3. How would you describe your skills at this point? What are you hoping to get out of joining a critique group? If you’re self-published, or intend to primarily pursue self-publishing (also called indie publishing), what are you looking for from a critique group that focuses on traditional publishing?
  4. Current members continually study better writing through how-to write fiction books, workshops, courses, articles, blogs, and Web sites. How do you continue to learn about the craft of fiction writing? 
  5. What novels published in, say, the last ten years in your chosen genre did you you really like?
  6. Although we currently meet on zoom, you must be local to Ithaca, NY, or within a reasonable driving distance of it, to join. What locality do you live in? Will you be able to regularly attend Sunday afternoon meetings?
  7. Any questions or concerns for us?

Expect a response to your email within a day or two. If a spot is open, and you seem like a good fit, typically the group leader will invite you to a zoom with a couple of group members to talk more.

first meetings for newly accepted members:

Newly accepted members undergo a try-out period. A try-out period gives everyone a chance to see if it’s going to work out.

At their first meeting, newly accepted members may not submit a piece for critique and do not participate in critiquing; they observe without speaking to get a sense of how the group functions. (Think of this as a fairly painless initiation!) At the second meeting, newly accepted members may, but are not required to, be critiqued and critique others.

The first three times newly accepted members submit pieces for critique, they receive a limited critique. (Yeah, I know, enough already! But, sorry, we’ve had some unhappy experiences in the past.)

The limited critique is briefer and produces less feedback. The critique begins with a circle of joy in which each critiquer makes a single positive comment. That’s followed by a circle of suggestions–each critiquer makes a single comment on a weakness. A  weakness should be more or less a single element/topic. Critiquers may include a suggested improvement in their one and only one weakness.

Once the potential new member has experienced three limited critiques and a number of not-limited critiques, if everyone’s still happy, the potential new member officially joins.

the first year for new members:

In the first year of membership, we would like new members to study up on the craft of fiction writing. The easiest way to study is to read craft books. We recommend reading at least five books listed on Resources for New Writers (which can often be borrowed from the Group Library). Choose one book from “Overviews of novel writing,” one from “Genre Overviews,” and the remaining three from “Essentials.”

During and at any time after the try-out period, if the writer becomes dissatisfied, it’s hoped that the writer will give up their spot, no hard feelings, so that someone else can join. The group leader reserves the right to ask a writer to leave (which she exercises on rare occasions) for not being a good fit,  for never writing,  never submitting material for critique, not contributing to or benefiting from the group over an extended period of time, for ignoring rules, for never/rarely being able to attend meetings, or for engaging in unacceptable behavior. Please know it’s not at all personal.


If this group doesn’t sound right for you, and it most certainly is not right for everyone, try find a writing group, or start your own

Updated January 20, 2024

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Header photo: Ithaca, NY courtesy of the talented Paul Joran