9 Tips for a Sucessful Critique Group

Blog | craft
Authored by Katie Davis
May 26, 2016

By Jan Fields

One of the best ways for any writer to grow is through feedback. One simple
truth of writing is that figuring out what's wrong with a manuscript is
tough. We know what we meant to say. And we have all this information about
the story in our heads, which informs our reading in a different way than it
does the independent reader. So getting feedback from a critique group or
critique partner is invaluable. But many people simply don't know how to
find a good critique group and the answer may end up being to form your own
group among the writing friends you meet online. To make sure a freshly
built online group successful (or even to evaluate a group you're
considering joining), here are nine tips:

1. Keep the group small enough for everyone to keep up with critiques but
large enough that someone has something available to critique on a regular
basis. Most recommend 8 to 10 members at the most.

2. Set a maximum submission size. Don't assume new members will know better
than to submit their whole young adult manuscript for critique at one time.

3. Set clear rules about how much critiquing each member is expected to do.
It isn't usually good to require members critique EVERY manuscript but
limits should be made about how many manuscripts a member can skip.

4. Rules should be set about how much chitchat is encouraged. Some critique
groups are very chatty, others require personal messages not be sent to the
whole group. Either way can work but all members should be comfortable with
it.

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5. Rules should be set about how rough manuscripts can be for critique. Some
groups allow early drafts submitted, others prefer members submit only their
best work. Either way can work, but again, all members should be comfortable
with it.

6. Clear guidelines should be set about group confidentiality. Confidences,
insecurities, and even good news shared within the group should stay within
the group. Nothing will kill a critique group quicker than a feeling of
mistrust.

7. Encourage critiques be supportive but honest. Give specific examples when
making general observations. Focus on improvement, work for clarity in your
explanations.

8. Encourage submitters to be open. Suggestions may sometimes include
examples for clarification -- don't choose to see that as re-writing your
story. Not every suggestion will be right for your story, but sometimes a
critique that gives incorrect suggestions will point you toward problem
passages or unclear meaning.

9. Encourage members to refrain from debating critiques or defending their
work. A critique may be wrong, but it shouldn't be a springboard for debate.
Consider every comment, keep what you need and discard without comment what
you do not. Be grateful for each person's time.

If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!

 


Comments

Renee' La Viness
July 10, 2016

This is pretty much how we do it. If we have enough manuscripts to fill the evening with 10 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of critique per manuscript, then we stick pretty tight to the plan. We read in order of arrival. If we have too many, some might not get to read. If we have less, we give more time for critique discussion, so everyone doesn't feel as pressured to rush through their comments, and the author can ask for more explanation, if necessary. We make our notes on copies of the original, so the author can take them home and study over them to decide which suggestions to use.

Renee' La Viness
July 6, 2016

This is pretty much how we do it. If we have enough manuscripts to fill the evening with 10 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of critique per manuscript, then we stick pretty tight to the plan. We read in order of arrival. If we have too many, some might not get to read. If we have less, we give more time for critique discussion, so everyone doesn't feel as pressured to rush through their comments, and the author can ask for more explanation, if necessary. We make our notes on copies of the original, so the author can take them home and study over them to decide which suggestions to use.

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