Tips and guidelines for author critique groups
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Participating in a critique group can be one of the best things you can do to help move forward in your writing skills.
A crit group will help you to find flaws or weaknesses in your writing, will encourage you when you’re struggling, will teach you to sharpen your eye to find habitual mistakes you make, and will be an important part of your writing community.
Critique groups come in all shapes and sizes. There are both online and in-person groups, and large groups and small groups:
Online critique partners: Online critique partners share work through emails, and the piece is critiqued with track changes within a specified period of time—24 to 48 hours or more. Everyone is on the honor system to be responsive and timely to the other members.
Online critique groups: Online group have a specific time when they meet via Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. Everyone joins the meeting and has a set amount of word count or a specific portion of time set aside for their work.
In-person critique groups: These groups also meet at a specific time and place with a schedule agreed to by the members. These groups may also have a set amount of word count or a set portion of time for each writer’s work.
Groups also need guidelines to keep things moving along and keep the peace among members.
Here are some examples of common guidelines for critique groups:
If the meeting is online, submit the work X amount of hours before the meeting so that members can print out the pages, if they wish.
The author may include a short blurb about the work to give context to the pages.
If the meeting is in person, print out enough sets of your pages as needed to distribute to the other members so they can write their suggestions on your pages.
When you’re compiling your work for the group, use Word formatting and add continuous line numbering. That way, when someone wants to refer to a specific passage you can say, “the sentence on line 62,” and there’s no time wasted looking for that spot.
Each writer is allotted a specific amount of time or pages (word count) for the session.
At in-person and online groups, someone other than the author reads the work. That helps the author to catch mistakes and hear passages that don’t flow well.
At in-person and online groups, the author must not speak during the reading or critique process.
Here are some tips for critique group participants:
Be humble. It’s not always easy to hear criticism of your work, but that’s part of the process.
Don’t feel compelled to make every change that’s suggested. Be polite. You don’t have to tell someone that you think their suggestion is off base.
Don’t explain your passage. If the other members of the group don’t understand it, then it’s your job to write better. After all, you won’t be able to sit next to everyone who reads your book and explain what was in your character’s head.
Share some praise about the work you are critiquing. It’s always good to get positive feedback.
Be appreciative of the writers who are concentrating on your story and making an effort to help improve your work.
Take notes to give your partners good feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Appreciate that not everyone is writing in the same genre, and make exceptions for different styles. There’s a world of difference between someone who writes romance and someone who writes suspense.
Not only do critique groups help you polish your work, they also help you to keep moving forward by staying engaged in the craft. Critique partners understand the journey you're on, and they're the best folks to help you and cheer you as you pursue your writing goals.