In order to start your own critique group, you first need to decide whether you want to begin an online group, or a face-to-face, local group.
If you decide to begin an online group, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. First, you should decide which forum to use, i.e. yahoo groups or ning groups. Either way works, it's just what works best for you. Secondly, you need to decide where you are going to get the members for your group. But again, you can draw from yahoo groups and/or ning groups! I'm sure there're others, but I shall focus on these two.
Whichever way, all you have to do is enter in your browser, "Yahoo.com". Once the yahoo window opens, check down the left column and choose "groups." On my browser, that brings up the yahoo groups I'm a part of. But in the right hand side of the screen, there is a link that says, "start your own group." Click on that, and follow the prompts. Choose "entertainment and arts," then "humanities," then "books and writing." Click "place my group here." In the new window, come up with a name for your new group. It really can be almost anything. Same thing for choosing your group email address. Under "describe your group," you do exactly that - describe your group. This is the copy that folks interested in your group find out about the direction you take with your group. Click "continue" and finish the yahoo prompts.
If you decide to use a ning group, the process is much the same. Type in browser www.ning.com and the ning page will pop up. Find the "create your group" link, and follow the directions.
With either the yahoo groups or the ning groups, those same groups are the place where you draw your prospective group members from. Begin by posting on your yahoo or ning group that you have a new group, state the type it is, i.e. children's, memoir, erotica, etc., and put out a general call for members. Then check your new group, look at the prospective members, and either approve or disapprove the members.
If you belong to any local writers groups, you can also put out a call for new members to your new group.
Email any of the writers you have gotten to know, and let them know of your new group as well.
Remember as the owner of the group, you have final say in who is allowed to become a member of your group or not. It is also a good idea to set up guidelines for the group, like "no bashing allowed," "no pornography," etc. You can get an idea of what guidelines to use by checking out the guidelines of the other groups you're a part of.
Next time, we'll discuss how to start a face-to-face, local group.