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?