Many factors contribute to a positive critique experience, the most important being the people in your group. Other considerations include the size of the group, genre of work, experience of authors both in writing and critiquing, format of the meetings,and the logistics of attending them. There are options for meeting in person or critiquing online.
The following are guidelines for participating in a successful critique group. They have been pulled from several sources including From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group, The 6’ Ferret Writers' Group, and Utah’s very own WIFYR. Readers are encouraged to go to visit these sites for a complete understanding.
There are two roles in a critique, one played by those critiquing, the other by the writer being critiqued.
Guidelines for the Writer
1. Prior to submitting, the piece should be free of errors. The critique should not be an editorial service. Run the thing through spell check and eliminate grammatical errors.
2. Submissions should follow standard format. Acceptable guidelines include author’s name, title, and page number in the header. Chapters begin one-third the way down the page. Margins are one inch. The manuscript is double-spaced and written in an easy to read font.
3. While listening to the critique, the author should remain silent and attentive and keep emotions in check. The writer shouldn’t interrupt or try to defend the writing. A confrontational critique place everybody on edge and detract from the positive learning experience it was meant to be.
4. The writer should take notes during the critique and record comments for later review.
5. When the critique has finished, the author may ask questions, seek clarification, or ask about specific areas of concern.
6. It is the author’s discretion which comments and suggestions to incorporate into revision of the piece and which to ignore. A good rule of thumb, though, is if two or more people make the same observation, the writer may want to consider it as a valid point. But the author ultimately has the final say.
Guidelines for Those Critiquing
1. Point out both what works and what doesn’t in the piece. Write down comments and discuss aloud.
2. Start off with something positive. We all like praise and this will set a positive tone for the critique.
3. Critique the writer, not the writing. Any fault found lies within the manuscript, not the author.
4. Be specific when pointing out things rather than speaking in general terms.
5. Offer suggestions when you think a change is needed.
6. Be honest and direct but in a polite and caring way. Don’t be afraid to discuss a weakness in order to avoid hurting the author’s feelings. This defeats the purpose of the critique group and doesn’t help the writer. Treat the writer with dignity and respect as you offer an honest evaluation.