8 Smart Questions to Ask as You Start, Alter, or Join a Critique Group

The process of critiquing other writers’ work thoughtfully and intelligently will help you strengthen your own writing.— Melissa Donovan

by ClkerFreeVectorImages
by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Critiquing is valuable to success…unless you find yourself in the wrong critique group.

Use the following questionnaire to:

  • Revamp your floundering group
  • Start a new compatible group
  • Join the right existing group
by ClkerFreeVectorImages
by ClkerFreeVectorImages

 

Questionnaire

 

  1. What help do you need? Be honest. Don’t leave off tasks because you want to avoid criticism of your weak areas. Possible tasks are:
  • Punctuation, spelling, & grammar
  • Word choices
  • Paragraph & sentence construction
  • Plot & characters
  • Scene goals & hooks
  • Conflict & believability
  • Prayer
  1. What’s the feedback style you’re willing to give and receive? Some are:
  • Frank honesty (“This paragraph is too melodramatic.”)
  • Soft honesty (“You may want to tone down this paragraph.”)
  • High on encouragement; low on criticism (“I like this word choice.”)
  • Combination (“This paragraph is too melodramatic. You may want to tone down what Mark says to Melanie. I like your use of ‘grandiose’ in the last sentence.”)
by nile
by nile
  1. How much time are you willing to spend critiquing a chapter? If group members commit to more than the first two tasks under Question 1, you may spend two or more hours on a chapter. Also, the levels of writing ability will determine how much needs to be addressed.

 

 

 

  1. How many critique partners can you realistically handle? And:

°  progress your own manuscript

°  perform an effective job on others’ chapters

In a 6-member group, depending on tasks chosen in Question 1, you could spend 6 to 18 hours a week critiquing.

In a past large group, some marked punctuation, spelling, and grammar only, while others performed in-depth critiques. Another member and I split off to form a 2-member group of frank, in-depth partners. That worked better for us.

Maybe it’s time to break your large critique group into smaller groups.

  1. by PublicDomainPictures
    by PublicDomainPictures
    What rules do you expect so the group functions fairly? No one wants to feel imposed upon by members not pulling their load. Rules might address:
  • Number of critiques performed to earn a critique
  • Expected tasks to be performed (Question 1)
  • Style of feedback (Question 4)
  1. What mix of writing-skill levels do you desire? Writers who:
  • are writing their first book
  • have completed a novel
  • have submitted for publication at least two books
  • have one or more published novels

Writers are readers, so all levels can add value.

  1. What craft development do you expect from members? A group may fail if some are learning the writing craft and others aren’t.

Activities members could choose from:

  • Attend writing workshops
  • Join local and online writing groups
  • Read craft books from a recommended list
  • Take online courses
  • Subscribe to writing blogs

 

by appraisal2day
by appraisal2day

8.  How important is it to critique in your genre?

In one group, a woman wrote Regency. Not having read Regency, I was ill-equipped to critique her work in some aspects. In another group, we had to, at least, read Amish novels. I read them and could give all-around feedback.

 

Join the right critique group, revamp a failing one, or start an effective one. Click to tweet.

What’s most important to you in a critique group?

 

8 Ways You Can Grow Your Creative Work While Helping Others

“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” — Les Brown

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You want to help others, but you’re drowning in getting everything done for your own creative work.

I experienced this early in my writing career. Then one day, I knew the answer to an author’s research question she’d asked on an author email loop. I answered her, and from her gracious thanks, I realized when my research failed, I could ask authors on the loop to help me.

Here are 8 ways helping others boosted my creative work. I hope you can adapt them to your creative work.

8 Ways I Helped Others and Grew My Creative WorkBusiness Discussion

1. I joined critique groups. Thinking critically about another’s writing and story teaches me what works and what doesn’t. I can heed these things in my work. Also, I want to give others correct suggestions. So, I look up what I question in their work, and learn. As I mature in critiquing, I discern what’s important to suggest and what’s better left alone. I’ve developed lasting relationships.

2. I accepted an author’s search for “influencers,” people who help spread the word about an author’s upcoming novel. Although a novice then, I interested some people in her book. I read several of her novels and kept in touch with her. Now years later, she’s agreed to read my upcoming book as a potential endorser.

bookstore3. I volunteered at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference bookstore a few times. Working among a well-populated cross section of Christian fiction, I discovered the many genres, which helped me select a genre that fit me. This year I’ve volunteered to be a reporter for the ACFW publication. I’ll report on one conference workshop. Another skill I’ll learn.

4. I joined local writers groups and have given presentations and worked on their boards. Besides absorbing much while developing the content of presentations, I’ve honed the skill of speaking. This will help in promoting my novel. Working on the boards has provided me closer relationships with other authors. And I’ve picked up much about the business of being an author.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5. I created a blog to help others use their creativity and perform the tasks related to their creative work. Writing the posts has given me a greater appreciation for the creativity God has given others and me. I recognize how creativity has sustained me in everything over the years.

6. I started writing book reviews for the books I’ve enjoyed. Collecting the aspects that engaged me in the stories, directs me to what I want to emulate in my stories.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7. I promote other authors. This has forced me to become adequate in using Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and guest blogging in both directions. In joining an author’s promotion team, I’m learning the tasks and how such a team works.

8. I pray for authors, editors, and agents. I understand much about the challenges and joys of a writing career, especially from Gods perspective.

After helping in these ways over the years, I’ve discovered an unexpected bonus to my career. People have learned who I am. That can only help in a career where exposure is crucial.

What examples do you have in which helping others has helped in your creative work?