Preparing for a Critique Group Experience

You’ve just joined a writing group, workshop or conference in which your work will be critiqued. You will also be asked to read the writing of the other participants and to be prepared to discuss each piece.

To be an active participant, you must do your homework. This means reading each submission with an eye for what works and what doesn’t, but not with a red pen in hand correcting every typo or grammatical error.

What happens if you can’t think of anything good to say? Look harder. It’s your job to recognize each gem with your written comments. It’s easier to talk about what you didn’t like, but if you don’t offer positive feedback, the writer may not hear your ideas for improvement.

Your job is to understand the writer’s goals and to help the writer achieve them. To do this, you must read each piece several times, taking notes each time. When you run across a beautiful description or nice turn of phrase, write. When dialogue works, write. When the setting makes sense, write. When the characterizations work, write. When you are drawn into the story, write. Point out the best parts of the piece and the strengths of the writing.

Be respectful. Make comments that are specific, but.do not be discouraging or so negative that the writer’s eyes fill with tears.

Your task is to take a piece of writing and critique it. Find something online, not your own work. Practice these skills.

Have fun with this one.