10 Steps to a Great Critique Group
I've recently joined Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and found a critique group to work with. If you're a writer, you'll benefit from belonging to one. An avid reader is not the same as a critical reader - we enrich our thinking and experience by reading for pleasure, but critical reading can make us better writers.
So what's useful feedback, and what's "noise"?
1. Be positive. Slamming someone's style, story, characters etc is not productive.
2. Do your homework. Read the material beforehand, twice if you can (mark it up on the second reading).
3. Layer your feedback. Discuss story structure & characters, language, grammar, etc. Dig deeper than just correcting punctuation & trimming sentences.
4. Highlight what shines. Be sure to note every well-turned line/phrase/sentence - we all want to know that our writing's not a total loss.
5. Write up your comments. Then edit them. Organizing your thoughts will give you more insight into the piece's strengths & weaknesses.
6. Humor can soften the sting of "this doesn't work."
7. Participate fully. Don't just attend when your material is being critiqued - give your fellow writers the benefit of your insight. It's only fair.
8. Offer your significant observations during the group meeting. Save your sentence-by-sentence dissection for the marked-up excerpt, for the writer to review later.
9. SHARE. Know about a good resource (a book, an organization, a website)? A writer's conference you thought was good? An agent or publisher in a group member's genre? Making connections helps everyone improve.
10. You're the writer. Your critique group isn't "writing by committee", they're offering perspective on your work. Consider all suggestions, but remember: ultimately, it's your story. Do right by your characters.