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Saralyn Richard on Writers Groups

Saralyn Richard is the author of the Detective Parrott series, as well as two thrillers. You can find out more about her on her website at, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

One of the most enriching parts of my life as a writer is getting feedback from fellow authors. No one better understands the frustrations and challenges, the victories and joys. Sometimes we need to vent. Sometimes we need advice. Sometimes we just need to share a tidbit that we’ve learned. Whatever the occasion, a fellow author can give us what we need in an instant—without gushing or making an exclamation point out of a simple period. We can count on fellow authors to have our backs whether the reviews are five stars or fewer, whether the royalties exceed the marketing budget or not, and whether our last book launch has soared or sunk.

Covers for Saralyn Richard's books.

            That’s why I’m an enthusiastic advocate for writers’ critique groups. One of my two critique groups has been meeting (in one form or another) for decades. I joined it in 2013, and in those ten years, approximately thirty authors have rotated in and out of it, but two of us have remained constant. We used to meet in person at my house, but once Covid hit, we started meeting by Zoom, and that has allowed us to open up to out-of-town members. Our little group takes our writing seriously, and we take each other’s writing seriously, too. We give scads of comments on each other’s chapters, some praise, some suggestions for improvement. We laugh over wrong word choices or misunderstood phrases, as if they were hilarious jokes. We come from different career backgrounds, so we have different kinds of expertise to share.

            My second critique group meets under the auspices of the International Thriller Writers. Our band of five hails from Australia and the United States. We’ve been meeting for over a year, and we’ve bonded in ways that transcend nationality or culture. We’re highly structured and spend our time professionally, but we care about each other, too.

            I’ve been asked (particularly by my creative writing students) whether time spent in critique group activities might be better spent in writing one’s own stories, and I respond with a definite no. I learn so much about writing and revising from my critique group partners. I learn what works and what doesn’t—in their submissions, as well as in my own. If there are flaws that will take the reader out of the story, my critique group members will ferret them out and help me fix them. By the time I’ve put a first draft through my critique groups, I’ve considered their comments and suggestions, and I’ve revised accordingly, I’m fairly confident that I’ve got a solid manuscript, ready to be professionally edited.

            When the book is ready to launch, no one else will be quite as excited for me as someone who helped in crafting it to perfection. If I am the birth-mother, they are the midwives.

Blackbird writers logo

            Of course, critique groups aren’t the only way that authors help each other. Author groups like Blackbird Writers provide opportunities for activities with common purpose, like our Halloween Flash Sale, our weekly blogposts, our monthly newsletters, and our online bookstore. Blackbird Writers read and review each other’s finished works. We share information about best practices. We encourage each other to learn and grow in our writing, publishing, and marketing endeavors. We benefit from each other’s experiences. Whatever befalls a fellow blackbird, we all become stronger for it.

            How does all this author collegiality benefit readers? Whenever we read a book, we take in the best—not only the best of the single author who produced the story, but the collective best influences of all the authors with whom that author has collaborated.

            We used to have a saying in education: Together Everyone Achieves More. My author teammates are my fraternity, my friends, my family. My relationship with readers begins with them.

Saralyn Richard

Saralyn Richard is the author of Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Saralyn — I thoroughly enjoy the writing groups I belong to, including the Blackbird Writers. And I love what you said about what a reader receives when they read a book: “The collective best influences of all the authors with whom that author has collaborated.”

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      Thanks, Laurie. Our writing is not as isolated as one might think!

  2. Galit

    So true! Wish I’d had a critique group all those years when I was writing and destroying manuscripts!

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      Thanks, Galit. My view of critique groups is the American Express slogan, “Don’t leave home without it.”

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    Laurie Story

    A supportive group of writers is so important not only for critiquing a WIP but for the camaraderie. You sound like you have all bases covered!

  4. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    I’m glad you mentioned cycling in and out of groups because I believe some writers avoid joining a group–and thus miss the value–because they’re afraid of not liking it, or afraid of being embarrassed, or afraid of being awkward if they want to quit, and they don’t want to feel obligated to stay with writers they may not “dig.” Introverts sometimes have a tough time with joining a critique group. As an instructor and critique group member myself, I encourage writers to realize and know that it is very okay to bow out of any group that isn’t working for you. But try it; try a group. As you mention, Saralyn, it’s very okay for writers to cycle in and out. That’s okay. Really, it is. …I’ve been part of critique groups all my life; can’t write without that collective wisdom. Nice post!

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    Thanks, Christine. I also teach creative writing, and that’s the same message I give my learners.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Great post, Saralyn. My writing critique groups and organizations have given invaluable support over the years, and you’ve articulated the reasons very well.

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      Thanks for your comment, Margaret. I’m so glad you’ve experienced the same support and inspiration.

  7. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    I credit my first critique group with helping me get published by a major house. When you have the right combination of members and a set of (loose) guidelines that everyone abides by, huge things can be accomplished. For a variety of reasons, that group no longer meets, but we know we can call on each other as needed.

  8. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Saralyn, I’m glad you’ve found successful writing groups. I’m in a group of’ Middle Grade authors that meets once a month. We read each other’s ARCs, give feedback, talk about our research, share marketing strategies, and review the final work. No pressure. Just as we’re able. That works well for me. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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      Thanks for commenting, Sherrill. Your group sounds wonderful, too!

      1. Tracey Phillips
        Tracey Phillips

        I’ve known for a long time that it takes a village to publish a book! It doesn’t need to be a lonely venture. There is so much value to be gained in critique groups and author communities.
        I never dreamed that Blackbird Writers would become what it is today. I love you all like family! And I hope authors and readers are getting the most of our best. Thanks Saralyn for this post. ❤️

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    Thank YOU, Tracey, for all the energy and hard work you give to making our flock soar. The feeling is mutual!

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    Avanit Centrae

    Happy to be part of your flock!

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      I’m happy about that, too, Avanti! (Your name is misspelled above.)

  11. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Absolutely the best part of being an author is meeting readers and other authors! What a wonderful group of people to interact with and I’m so glad I’ve met you, Saralyn!

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      I feel the same, Sharon. Thank you for interviewing me last year, and thanks for reading and reviewing my books. I agree with you that meeting readers (and other authors) is the absolute best!

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