A critique group can be an invaluable help to you as a writer, or a painful exercise in losing friends and failing to influence people. We use the following guidelines in our critique groups. Print them out and take them to your next meeting. Good ground rules.
Critique Group Guidlines
As the Writer/Reader:
1. Know that the comments you receive are only opinions. It is your task to decide which are helpful and which are not.
2. Prior to reading aloud, tell us what kinds of comments might be most helpful to you.
3. After you have finished reading, take a deep breath, relax, and prepare to listen closely. Jot notes for later consideration. Restrain yourself from defending your choices, unless you believe the evaluator has clearly missed the point.
4. Ask questions until you fully understand the criticisms.
5. Talk through any hurt, frustrated, or misunderstood feelings with the person concerned as soon as possible, or feel free to talk with the facilitator.
As the listener/evaluator
1. Focus first on what the writer has done well.
2. Try not to focus on “nits,” i.e. word by word, line by line problems involving punctuation, grammar, etc. If you see these kinds of problems repeated throughout a piece, make a note, such as “Check comma use,” or, “Subject-verb separation throughout,” rather than marking each incorrect usage.
3. Determine if the writer has carried through his or her intent. Is the theme clear (fiction and non-fiction)? Are the characters interesting and appropriate to the genre? Is the writing stimulating, i.e. incorporating all of the senses, or contains quotes, anecdotes, facts and figures? Does the lead hook your interest, orient you in time and space, direct your attention to the problem, theme, purpose of the piece?
4. In giving comment, make sure you make eye contact with the writer and have his/her attention. If you sense that you have not been understood, ask the writer if your comments were clear .
5. AVOID interrupting speakers. AVOID quick disagreement with someone’s opinion. AVOID jumping to a writers defense. AVOID digressing into your own writings or personal history, unless doing so is relevant to the work at hand.
6. When making written critiques on manuscripts, please sign your name.
7. Hold in mind that your goal is to help the writer achieve his or her purpose. Restrain the impulse to level judgments on any writer’s choice of subjects or interpretations.
8. Limit your oral comments to the most significant ones so that everyone will have time to speak. Know that you can talk with a writer later.
*John Reed, Writers Welcome Editing and Critique Service. http://www.writerswelcome.com