Have you seen the above rules before? It’s super-smart advice!

[Get more writing and content marketing tips from Copyblogger.]

Here’s Step #11: Don’t Write in a Vacuum.

It’s simple: if you want to get better — no matter what your experience level — you should also find and work with a critique partner or group.

The benefits include:

  • Detailed constructive criticism and feedback on your work before you publish it.
  • The opportunity to brainstorm and flesh out your ideas before you publish them.
  • The opportunity to network and build professional relationships.
  • Great accountability to your own writing goals.

All of which can shave months or even years off your learning curve as a writer.

The best writers have relied on the power of critique groups for eons.

Novelists, poets, screenwriters and yes, even those who write non-fiction, know that finding and working with a small cadre of like-minded writers can have a big impact on the work they share with the world.

I was — myself — part of a wonderful critique group in my early 20s. We wrote mainly short fiction and, over time, even decided to publish a collection of our best work. It was an experience second only to the workshopping that happened in some of my college-level writing classes.

My experience led me to ask: Why don’t bloggers do this, too?

You and I both know there’s a huge lopsided amount of advice out there for bloggers. Most of it revolves around tips for increasing engagement or traffic-building strategies.

The honest truth: if your writing sucks, no amount of website traffic is going to help you build your business. << Click to Tweet

In order for content marketing to work, it’s got to say something truly helpful for the reader. And if that content has any hope in Hades of being shared, it needs to be infused with a fresh perspective and/or a personality (hint: I mean yours).

The real answer is to improving your results is to write better posts. (NOTE: “Epic” isn’t required every time you publish, but you definitely want us to feel like the time we spend reading or watching your content has been worthwhile.)

My Answer: The Biz Bloggers’ Mastermind

Just this week, I wrapped up the third round of a special critique group just for business bloggers. You can get a feel for what we do together here.

The reactions (and re-enrolls) prove my point: these kinds of groups work!

I really appreciated all of your feedback — it helped me to refocus and think about how I create a blog post and what the purpose of writing one is. I liked hearing from the group and then going and looking at the post through their eyes. It helped give me distance from my post instead of looking at it from a place of attachment. I’m re-enrolling! – Carmen Taggert, TheStoryRaven.com

I felt the top benefits were the critique from group, accountability on writing, and edits so we’d have a finished product every week. I also got a lot more comfortable with putting more of me into my stories. – Eva Chen, BrandFromWithin.com

The group critiques were a very constructive process. Even though it was difficult sometimes, I like that you pushed us to find something in every post that could use improving. It was good for me to both be critiqued and share my own feedback. There were a few times when I gave someone feedback and made mental note that I needed to work on that skill or writing practice myself. The accountability and the extra resources you shared were also super helpful. – Yoneco Evans, aWomanUndeniable.com

You can read more testimonials on the course description page.

How to Find or Start Your Own Critique Group

Obviously, you don’t need to join my group to take advantage of critiques. In fact, I encourage you to take the lead and form your own, or look for an existing group locally or online!

If you live in Portland (OR), I’ve created a free Meetup group just for this purpose (fair warning: this one is just getting off the ground and I’m not facilitating the meetings — just attending and promoting them). If you don’t live in my area, you still might find something that suits you on Meetup.com or a local writers or bloggers group.

You could also reach out to peers whose writing experience you feel matches and/or surpasses your own. They just need to be willing to meet on a regular basis and commit fully to the process.

Not sure whether to work locally or virtually? This post on The Writers’ Craft has some good advice.

Keep your group small. I recommend no more than six or seven people if you want to make sure you can give everyone’s work some quality time and attention.

Lay down some guidelines with your group. I generally follow mastermind practices in our meetings and also provide a checklist of what to look for while giving feedback. A good place to start in creating your own can be found on Writing Forward.

Of course, if you don’t have the time or energy to do all that, I have a few seats left in my group and I’d LOVE to have you join us. There’s an early-bird bonus if you register before May 1. Clickety-click on over and check out the details.

Now it’s your turn: have you ever participated in a writers’ critique group? What did you like? What didn’t you like? Or, if you haven’t yet joined a group, what are your biggest questions? Concerns? Chime in! I’d love to hear from you.