Critique Group: Goals

A friend recently undertook to start a critique group.  She stated the guidelines and we started out with bringing either the first 5 pages (i.e., first scene) or first chapter of our current work-in-progress (WIP) for the other members.  Then, having exchanged email addresses, we decided to transmit our next meeting’s submission ahead of time so everyone would have a chance to review it before the meeting.

We are to print out the material to be critiqued, mark it up, and then bring it to the meeting. After the critique session, the markups will be given to the writer for him or her to take home with a record of everyone’s suggestions.

(Yeah, we kill a few trees in this group, but the physical markup is important.)

For the new members, a few rules:

  • EVERYONE critiques at every meeting.
  • EVERYONE receives critiques at every meeting.  This is why we limit the size of the group.
  • We expect everyone to make progress on their book at every meeting.  If you’re in the planning stage, that’s fine, we’ll help you brainstorm and plan your story; if you’re writing, we generally want to see the next chapter, not the same one over and over again.  We want to encourage every member to keep pushing forward to finish their books!!
  • Yes, there are exceptions to the every-meeting-submission thing. Life happens and is sometimes out of our control. But if you’re not contributing and attending on a regular basis, re-think whether this is the group for you.  With a small group we can also be flexible about times and dates to meet the majority’s needs so if there’s a conflict, let me know and we’ll see if we can adjust it.
  • We’re here to help at whatever stage you are in your writing: help with planning, plotting story structure, brainstorming, and, of course, detailed critiquing.
  • We are here to improve our craft, which means we are NOT here to sit around and tell each other that our stuff is “just wonderful” when it’s not.
  • With that said, your critiques should point out what the writer is doing well.  If you particularly liked or were impressed by something, by all means let the writer know.  Writers get too few ego-strokes and far too many rejections as it is!
  • If you find something wrong, you’re expected to also suggest ways to fix it. If you can’t think of any fixes, the group will brainstorm a solution for the writer.
  • We are here to improve our WRITING, which means we critique the words on the page, not the person.  Any personal attacks on another member will result in being ousted from the group.
  • We have no limits on type of book being critiqued, other than it must be for popular fiction rather than literary fiction, but bear in mind that not everyone is equally knowledgeable about all genres.  Make an effort to read at least a book or two in everyone’s genre if you’re completely unfamiliar with it.  Yes, guys, that means we’ll expect you to read a romance or two.  Trust me…you might learn something!
  • Generally, we meet every other Saturday at 2 PM here in Advance.

Basically the goals of this group are two-fold: To prod each other to KEEP WRITING and provide group support and encouragement when writing gets hard.

# # #

Guess I’ll just have to look forward to:
  • Each meeting
  • Each person’s submissions as her/his story grows
  • The breathless anticipation for how to improve my story
  • Subjecting myself to the discipline [agony?] of nailing my delicate butt [Are you buying this?] to my chair and actually progressing in my novel
Some people will do anything to be mentioned in the credits.
Are you in a critique group?
Would this guideline work for your critique group too?
What would you change in this by addition or subtraction?
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