We’ve developed a system of checks and balances to ensure that all writers benefit from our group. Two main approaches are discussed with newcomers to ensure that everyone gets the most for their efforts.
First Absorb, Then Ask and Discuss
At our in-person meetings, we are organized by group. Each group occupies a table and takes turns giving feedback to the people who’ve submitted.
When your work is being critiqued, we ask that you absorb the information first… not explain it or answer a bunch of questions from the people giving you their feedback. Save your questions for when the feedback has stopped and it’s your turn to ask questions of the people who’ve provided you with feedback, or perhaps explain a part of the story that may not have been clear to them when they read your work initially.
Should any obligation prevent you from attending a meeting for which you’ve submitted work for critique, you can provide feedback to your fellow writers, and receive feedback, virtually. You would need to send the files to the group that weekend to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. See the Critique Reciprocity Rule below for clarification.
Timing is Everything
If a group is large, it is sometimes necessary to time each person’s critique so that all of the writers receive feedback during the library session. In this instance, group co-leaders or trusted regulars may be charged with this task. Usually a cell phone is used to time each critique.
Keep in mind that each person providing feedback deserves the respect of the group. Group members, as well as the person receiving the feedback, are encouraged to be quiet and allow that person the floor.
Critique Reciprocity Rule
Every person who submits a manuscript must critique the manuscripts in his/her group and submit them for distribution no later than the day following the meetup, Sunday, at 11:59 p.m. The other writers read yours; you have to read theirs. If you do not critique as assigned, note the following:
- You will not be able to submit a manuscript for the next session for which you RSVP. For that session, you will be assigned the role of Reader and will have to critique the manuscripts in your group and submit them on time. This applies to 10-page and 30-page submissions only.
- If you do not submit critiques more than once, you will not be permitted to submit again for three months.If you have questions, contact us at email@example.com. This applies to 10-page and 30-page submissions only.
- If a submitter of the ‘long-form manuscripts’ (such as first 100 pages or full manuscript) does not critique all of the manuscripts in his/ her group, that submitter will not be permitted to submit manuscripts in the future.
Be Respectful or Leave
This group comes together to help each other become better writers. Disruptive behavior that can steal focus from our primary goal–to help each other become better writers–is discouraged. Our members and co-organizers are volunteers; no one is paid to listen to complaints or to change rules because one person wants to be exempt from them. We come together with a positive goal in mind. We expect our members to treat each other with respect before, during, and after our meetings. We expect constructive critiques. This is not to say that uncomfortable issues cannot be discussed in our critique group meetings. Insights that help us become better writers are welcomed. However, disruptive and self-aggrandizing behavior are not welcome. Members who disrespect others will be asked to leave.