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Ten Tips for A Successful Critique Group

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Last week, we discussed how to find your writing tribe. Once you find them, it is time to lay down the ground rules.

1.Decide what type of feedback/group you truly want and need.

Are you all at the same level of beginner, intermediate, or expert? Sometimes a mix is good, but sometimes it causes aggravation. If you need help growing your craft, find a mentoring group. If you just want to be encouraged, find a nurturing group. Are you able and prepared to exchange high-level analysis, editing, proofreading, etc.? Find a master class group.

2. You must be willing to commit to it as if it were a job.

Uneven groups foment resentment. It is bad for the group when some people submit and critique and others don't. Members who don't show up are disruptive. Everyone has "life" events that intrude, but you should try to schedule a time and place and hold it sacred.

3. Make rules and stick to them.

Decide how often you will meet, where or how you meet (in person, online groups, Skype, etc.), how many pages are submitted, the type of feedback you need for each submission, and the format of the feedback (written notes, verbal exchange, notations in Word for Windows, or a combination). Some may be at the final draft stage, others at the first draft.

4. Assign a "clock watcher." It is best to divide your time up evenly so no one gets left out or feels their work has not received equal attention. Make it someone's job to keep time.

5. Assign a "temperature taker." This person keeps everyone on topic and keeps the discussion from becoming heated. Hurt feelings can fester and destroy a group quickly. Make it someone's job to keep the flow positive. It is best to confront any negative interaction right away.

6. Check your ego at the door. If you can't handle constructive criticism, then this is not the venue for you. Everyone will have a different take on your work. They will catch different things. They will have opinions. You do not have to respond to or adapt to them. Say thank you and move on. But if more than one person says the the same thing, you should listen a little closer.

7. No gossiping about each other. Period. No trolling members you don't like.

8. Don't make assumptions. You are fiction writers. Don't assume anything is autobiographical.

9. What happens in the group stays in the group. You should not discuss the other members, their work, their critiques, etc. with other people unless you have their permission. To do so is a violation of trust.

10. If you have a problem member, address the topic openly amongst everyone. Give them a chance to fix things (i.e. not submitting, critiquing, attending) with a deadline. Enforce the rules. If you decide to make exceptions because of special circumstances, make sure everyone agrees.

For more information on writing craft, hang out with me at Story Building Blocks on FacebookPinterest, Linked-In, or Twitter and visit for free downloads.

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