I’ve belonged to several critique groups and I have learned and grown in each of them. I’ve been present at the birth of wonderful stories and seen them bloom.
Since 2009 I have been with Pen and Ink and I LOVE my critique partners’ work. I love it so much that I wanted to share their brilliance with my friends. In 2010 Lupe was revising Medicine Boy and the writing was so great that I shared it with a member of Lupe’s target audience .
My thirteen year old friend, Donovan, thought the opening chapter was great and wanted to read more. I jubilantly reported that fact to Lupe.
Lupe’s response was “Who is Donovan?”
I chilled when I read that because I suddenly realized I’d stepped over a boundary. I’d shared his work without his permission.
In the same case, I wouldn’t have minded a bit, but not everyone is like me. Big surprise. Most writers prefer to choose what they share. Perhaps some of you are like me and didn’t realize that sharing your delight in another writer’s unpublished work and or ideas is not a good thing to do.
So here is a revised Critique Group Manners list.
What happens in Critique Group stays in Critique Group.
Don’t share your fellow writer or illustrator’s ideas with your friends, or, on any internet forum. This doesn’t mean you can’t share your own work, if you are so minded.
Giving a critique:Kindness and Honesty are the key words. The ability to say things in a constructive, positive manner is as important as honest feedback to improve a story.
Use the Critique Sandwich
- Tell the author what he has done really well. Be concrete and specific. Comments such as “This is a nice story ” don’t help an author revise. Give the author an idea of what is really working for you as a reader. If there are lines you specially love, mention or highlight them in the text.
- Follow that up with suggestions on where you think the story might be improved. Again - Be as specific as possible. It’s good to give an overall critique of a story, but marking areas within the body of the text that are confusing to you or that you feel may benefit from revision, allows the author to hone in on weak passages. (Especially if two people mark the same thing.)
- End on a good note. Reiterate what you loved. Encourage and support your fellow author.
Receiving a critique.
- Sort through the comments, think deeply, and make decisions on how to revise your story. You do not have to, nor is it wise, to take every piece of advice. It’s your privilege to pick and choose from the suggestions offered.
- You will probably want to explain why you did what you did, when receiving feedback. Try to keep that behavior to a minimum. You will not get to explain to readers or reviewers why you wrote a particular sentence. The members of your group are your first reader/reviewers.
I welcome any suggestions to add to this manners list. I am sure there are things I haven't thought of. I mean, I am the one who didn't know it wasn't okay to share.