Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Get the Most Out of A Critique Group

I've been in a dedicated critique group, consisting of a former publisher and a published authors for the past year and a half. There have been amazing benefits, not only for my writing but also in enjoying the works of others.

So here are a few things I've noticed maximize the critique group experience:

1. Avoid Explanation/Defending Your Writing. The more you have to explain to others, the more editing you have to do. We have one member of our critique group who just nods when we pose questions and takes notes. The group also feels more open to express opinion.

2. Come Prepared With Questions. Kickstart the discussion with one or two thoughtful questions about character, plot or pacing. Help steer the discussion towards the weaker parts of your writing. It also doesn't hurt to ask what your fellow group members think you are doing well.

3. Critique Strengths & Weaknesses of Others. Authors come to critique groups for several reasons, but gaining support from fellow authors is one of them. Of course positive critique is essential, but helping your group members understand what they do well can help them play to their strengths.

4. Ignore Punctuation/Copyline Editing. This will inevitably be a waste of time. Each publishing company has it's own way of doing things.

5. Sleep On It. Wait overnight, or at least a day before tackling the suggestions you brought home from your critique group. Initially, if you've got a good group and you've listened well, you'll come home pretty wounded. But after you've had a good night's sleep, you'll start to get excited about the changes you're going to make.

What suggestions do you have for members of critique groups?

Tiffany Dominguez
Freelance Writer
Young Adult Fiction


Scott said...

Excellent post. Oh, and happy birthday!

My group has sort of collapsed lately, and I miss it.

I've been in several groups over the years. I think the most important thing is for a group to really be there, not just for critiquing but for support, to really foster a sense that you're pulling for each other.

As for protocol, I learned two things in my first group that I've tried to follow ever since:

1. When you are being critiqued, shut up. You can answer questions if asked directly, but the polite thing to do is listen to the other group members. If you have to, comment when they are done.

2. When critiquing others, always start with sincere positives, and remember to be tactful. As I said, you're in the group to support each other. The critical suggestions are the most helpful ones, but the positives set the supportive tone.

Tiffany Dominguez said...

Thanks Scott! I completely agree. Even when you are critiqued in an untactful manner, I found it's best just to make up your mind not to be offended and remember that they are sincerely trying to help you. Sorry to hear that your critique group collapsed. There is a new critique group here in Highland that is still pretty small. They might accept a new member. They have two published authors in the group.

Yamile said...

Our crit group in Highland is still newborn but gaining strength every time we meet! We'd be honored to have more people in our group; let me know if you're interested Scott.
thanks for this post Tiffany, and thanks for all your advice as we were starting.

Yamile said...

I just read this post by Natalie Whipple, who's represented by "my dream agent" Nathan Bransford, and she talks about how to find a good crit group.
I thought you guys might enjoy it.