I call these amazing people ‘critical readers’. They’re called that for two reasons: firstly, because they offer constructive criticism of your work and secondly, because they are a critical part of improving your craft.
Critical readers are not your mum, your partner or your best friend. They are fellow writers or subject matter experts who will read your work and critique it in detail.
Your family and friends might say unhelpful things such as: ‘It was okay’ or ‘I didn’t understand it’, but critical readers will say really useful things like: ‘You have a tendency to use dangling modifiers’ or ‘I found the dialogue credible’ or ‘I didn’t believe that your 14th century protagonist would know about nuclear fission’.
Critical readers are the writer’s best friend (after a good dictionary, a cup of coffee and lots of great books). They tell you when something works or doesn’t, and why it does or doesn’t.
Finding critical readers can be hard, but they are out there. You just need to know where to look, and that’s in places where writers gather.
So where to start?
Libraries often host writing groups and run writing courses. Their community engagement person would be a great person to talk to.
Or you could try writers’ centres – they often have lists of who convenes writing groups in your area.
In Australia, there are writers’ centres in each state, as well as national professional associations. The following links will take you to the state writers centres:
These links will take you to some of the best professional organisations for writers and illustrators:
- Australian Society of Authors
- Copyright Agency Ltd
- Illustrators Australia
- International Board on Books for Young People
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Australia & New Zealand Chapter
- Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA)
If you go to conferences, classes and seminars run by these organisations, you will meet other like-minded writers. Join in the conversations and meet new people. You may just form a writing group and find your very own critical readers.
Blogs and newsletters are also great sources of information, and are far too numerous to list here.
Reach out to other writers, commit to being a critical reader for them, and pretty soon you’ll have the beginnings of a great professional relationship.
Oh, and your writing might just improve.