According to his critique group’s blog, Rory Craig Keel plans to give it a whirl.
Critique groups. That’s where friends do their best to help each other write better. To help you with the critique process, here are tips from my unpublished book CRAFT: Create, Rewrite, and Fine Tune.
· On a separate piece of paper—single spaced, because it is not part of the writing “to critique,” give your readers a heads up on what you’ve brought for the session. For example, if it is your manuscript’s first chapter, clear up possible confusion from the start. What do your readers need to know--its target audience, the overall setting, genre, --what?
· If you want to know something in particular, spell it out: “Please concentrate on the hook—I know it’s weak,” or “I’m having trouble weaving in the back story—suggestions?”
· Don’t expect others to know past details of your story. On your “heads-up” sheet, update the group each time you bring something, even if it’s a rewrite. Why waste valuable meeting time while each member explains what he or she has brought?
· If you write fantasy, sci-fi, or the action takes place in unconventional settings, make sure your reader understands uncommon terms.
· Use a readable font, double-space the lines, and leave at least a one-inch margin all around. At the very least, paginate your work. Line numbers are best. By default, in word processing applications line numbers are off. Computer programs differ, but to turn line numbers on, this should work: turn on Help (usually F1); write “line numbers” in the pop-up menu’s blank space; press enter. Click on the selection that indicates line numbering instructions.
· Remember group members may not be great writers yet, but they are readers. The least talented writer may have a super suggestion. Listen.
· Listen without interrupting. Wait for a person to finish a critique before asking for clarification or making comments—that is relevant comments. Why argue? Thank the member for the critique. It’s your piece; simply ignore advice you disagree with.
· Certain people may have issues with material presented. Examples are extreme violence, vulgar language, or sex scenes. Use your “heads-up” sheet to warn them. If everyone considers your manuscript X-rated, either heed their advice on toning it back, or realize you are in the wrong group, at least for the piece being critiqued.
· Be professional and stay positive. Hang Tough. Misunderstandings happen, but members of your group are merely stating their opinions. If they did not want you to succeed, they wouldn’t even read your work.
· Remember these are your peers who may be rushed to finish in the allotted time. Expect them to miss things an editor wouldn’t. Appreciate their efforts, and they’ll appreciate yours.