The online forum works well and has many advantages.
- We are free from the constraints of time. Being online, I don't have to wait until Tuesday at 7:00 PM to present something. I can post a chapter or a story whenever I want.
- Participants can critique whenever they choose. The meeting place is open 24/7.
- Critiques trickle in but can be read the the poster at any time.
- The group membership is not limited to people who are in geographic proximity. We have people from all over the US. Some groups are international. Well, we do have a member who is in China, so I guess we ARE an international group.
- We are somewhat anonymous. It's interesting posting work for critique by people I've never met. But something happens when I read a critique delivered by someone in the written form. On one hand, it can create misunderstandings. You can't hear someone's voice, the inflections, nor can you see the body language of the critic. That's a double-edged sword.
- I participate from home or wherever my laptop and I are. I can attend the group in my pajamas (and often do).
Over time, we have all gotten to know each other fairly well. And any new arrival will drastically change the dynamic of the group. Being a fairly small group, we have all gotten to know each other's writing and critique styles. New people are introduced through invitation and usually serve to get the air moving around in our small cave.
It's a strange thing to explain to someone who isn't involved in internet community, but I communicate with the people of my critique group almost every day. Most of us exchange something every day. There have been times when I've been disappointed by the critiques I get, usually when it seems like everyone glossed over something I wrote and didn't really say anything useful. Gee, that was good! isn't my idea of a critique. But I've gotten some very strong and helpful things from the group as well. They kept me on course with my novel and ensured that it was completed. I can't ask for anything more than that.