The SCBWI-MI listserv has been discussing what makes a successful critique group. Debbie Diesen and Sandy Carlson liked my post, so here it is again.
- Be honest. Telling someone their submission is great when it’s not is neither kind nor polite.
- Be constructive. Telling someone to put their manuscript in a drawer isn’t helpful. Not every manuscript can be published, but every manuscript can be improved. The writer can learn by improving it.
- Writing and critiquing are different skills. Both have to be developed.
- For face-to-face groups, have a person other than the writer read the submission out loud. The writer should listen for awkward phrasing and observe the reactions of the other members of the group. It’s a great way to judge emotional impact.
- If submissions are sent in advance, read them and think hard about them.
- Say what works and doesn’t work, even if you can’t figure out how to make a helpful revision suggestion.
- The critique is about the manuscript, not the person who is critiquing. I love it when critique members compliment my ideas, but the bottom line is improving the manuscript.
- The writer must make the final decision about which critique suggestions to use.